February 2016

Richard M. Gronostajski, PhD, professor of biochemistry, has been awarded a three-year, $1 million grant to study neural stem cell (NSCs) therapies for a variety of brain insults and injuries.

The grant, funded by New York State Stem Cell Science (NYSTEM), will allow researchers to study how to regulate the proliferation and differentiation of NSCs — with the ultimate goal of stimulating NSC function as a therapy.

Gaining such an understanding represents an early step in developing new methods to treat conditions such as neurodegenerative diseases, spinal cord injury, fetal alcohol syndrome and traumatic brain injury.

“Understanding the mechanisms regulating NSC function also holds out the promise of preventing or ameliorating the cognitive loss that may accompany advanced aging and could even provide means to improve brain function in younger adults,” says Gronostajski, who is principal investigator on the grant.

Employing Genomics, Bioinformatic Analyses

A major goal of the project is to determine the mechanisms by which the proliferation and development of NSCs is regulated by the gene nuclear factor IX (NFIX).

“There is good evidence that NFIX is involved in NSC function because loss of NFIX causes adult brains to become too large and to produce an excess of cells that have characteristics of NSCs,” Gronostajski says.

NFIX is a member of the four-gene family (NFI family), and two other members — NFIA and NFIB — have also been shown to play important roles in brain development.

“We will investigate how loss of NFIX affects NSC growth and differentiation, and we’ll investigate how NFIA and NFIB function with NFIX to regulate these processes,” Gronostajski says.

The research will use state-of-the-art genomics and bioinformatic analyses to discover genes regulated by NFIX, NFIA and NFIB that control NSC proliferation and differentiation, according to Gronostajski, who directs the Genetics, Genomics and Bioinformatics program at UB.

International Collaboration of Scientists

Gronostajski will collaborate on the research with Fraser J. Sim, PhD, assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology, along with Michael Piper, PhD, and Linda Richards, PhD, of the Queensland Brain Institute at the University of Queensland in Australia.


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