Basic Research

The Department of Neurology has a strong basic science research program that aims to understand the molecular mechanisms of neurological diseases and develop new treatment strategies for these disorders. The department’s basic research program includes the Pittsburgh Institute for Neurodegenerative Disorders, the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and the Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center. Other areas of focus include neuromuscular disorders, traumatic brain injury and epilepsy. Neurology faculty consistently secure funding for a number of new research projects. Some current projects include:

  • Dr. Edward Burton received funding for a seed grant from the Aging Institute of UPMC Senior Services to study pathophysiology underlying age-related neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s disease.
  • Dr. Jun Chen received funding for an R01 from NINDS. The project, “Inducible DNA Repair in Cerebral Ischemia” will test the hypothesis that enhancement of FEN1-dependent DNA repair activity improves long-term neurological outcomes after cerebral ischemia by promoting the repair process of injured neurons and white matter.
  • Dr. Roberto DiMaio received funding from RIMED Foundation. Selective NOX2 Inhibitor in the Prevention of Parkinson Disease-Related Neurodegeneration and Movement Disorder to explore and define the role of NOX2/mitochondria interplay in iPD and models thereof.
  • Dr. Steven Graham received funding from the NIH NINDS for a new R01. The project explores the role of the neuron-specific ubiquitin ligase/hydrolase protein UCHL1 in axonal function and repair in traumatic brain injury. Novel brain permeable UCHL1 TAT fusion proteins that repair axons will be tested in vitro and in vivo.
  • Dr. Timothy Greenamyre received funding Biogen Pharmaceuticals for Testing Parkinson’s Therapeutics in Novel Animal Model to study the hypothesis that a brief exposure to a pesticide, like rotenone, such as one might get occupationally, or even with intensive home gardening, might set off a cascade of pathological events that could lead – after a prolonged period of neurological normalcy – to development of PD.
  • Dr. Timothy Greenamyre received funding from the Blechman Foundation for Clenbuterol Project to develop a proof-of-concept for the prioritized hit, the β2AR-agonist clenbuterol, in a novel progressive model of endogenous synucleinopathy and Parkinsonism.
  • Dr. Timothy Greenamyre received funding for an R21 from NINDS. A Slowly Progressive, Endogenous Synucleinopathy Model of Parkinson’s Disease to characterize and further develop a novel, progressive model of Parkinson’s disease.
  • Dr. Milos Ikonomovic received funding for an R01 from NIA. Development of a PET Tracer Selective for Cerebral Amyloid Angiopathy to design, produce, and characterize novel compounds for labeling toxic deposits of amyloid-beta peptide in brain blood vessels, for use in future imaging studies in living patients.
  • Dr. Emily Rocha received funding from the Parkinson’s Foundation. Loss of Glucocerebrosidase Increase Dopaminergic Neuronal Vulnerability by Impairing Autophagic Flux to test the hypothesize that reduced GCase activity causes autophagic impairment and is implicated in the pathogenesis of PD. This project will provide insight into the mechanism that impairs autophagic flux and promotes α-synuclein accumulation in PD and tests the translational potential of GCase.
  • Dr. Shanshan Song received funding from American Heart Association, Targeted Knockout of Microgial Na+/H+ Exchanger-1 in Mice Improves Neurological Function Recovery After Stroke to investigate effects of selective deletion of microglial Nhe1 in Cx3cr1-CreER; Nhe1f/f mice on neuroinflammation and tissue repair after ischemic stroke.
  • Dr. Dandan Sun received funding from NINDS for a new R01, Liberation of Intracellular Zinc and Neuronal Cell Death. The project tests the hypothesis that interfering with a cellular process that triggers the Kv2.1- mediated apoptotic K+ current surge may provide an effective, highly specific therapeutic strategy for neuroprotection in stroke and related injury.