Researcher to study relationship between nervous system cells and blood flow in brain

June 17, 2014 College News - The Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) has received a four-year, $1.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to study how astrocytes, the cells that support neurons in the brain and spinal cord, affect the genetic makeup and function of other cells in the brain.

David R. Harder, PhD, Professor of Physiology, Medicine and Pediatrics and Associate Dean of Research at MCW and the Kohler Company Professor in Cardiovascular Research, is the principal investigator of the grant. His research interests focus on the genetic and molecular basis of how the vasculature of the brain self-regulates cerebral blood flow.

Astrocytes are cells in the brain and spinal cord that support neurons through a variety of means, including supplying nutrients and modulating ion concentrations critical to neuronal activity. Astrocytes release a large number of molecules that may affect gene expression in neighboring cells and are thought to be involved in regulation of cerebral blood flow. A major goal of this grant is to analyze this array of released astrocytic factors, and to determine how it may alter the gene expression and function of cells in the brain’s vasculature and of invading tumor cells.

The results of this project will provide further understanding of how blood flow in the brain is maintained and may impact research in related fields, including stroke, hypertension and other pathologies of the nervous system.

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