A 5-year, $1.8 million National Institutes of Health grant awarded to staff scientist Nikolaos Tapinos, MD, PhD, of Geisinger’s Sigfried and Janet Weis Center for Research, will be used to study the role of nuclear ErbB3 protein during development of the nervous system and in response to nerve injury.
Damage to the brain and spinal cord is often incurable because it is extremely difficult for neurons in the central nervous system to regenerate. Tapinos will focus his work on why nerves in the peripheral nervous system are able to heal themselves and proliferate. A key to his study will be gaining better insight into why Schwann cells, which provide myelin insulation to axons in the peripheral nervous system, can regrow but similar cells in the central nervous system can not. The most important aspect of his research will be how to reverse the trend.
According Tapinos, this molecular-level work could pave the way for treating and reversing traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries.
“Geisinger has a tremendous amount of resources. We’ll be drawing on these resources to find answers to this difficult neurological question,” he stated in a press release. “The beauty of this study is that if you end up with a better understanding of how an important gene operates, your discoveries can lead to the development of drugs that can trigger the central nervous system cells to regenerate and, in turn, reverse these conditions.”
Tapinos predicts that by the end of the grant, “we will know the role and significance of nuclear ErbB3 as part of an interactive signaling network and we will be able to identify the best potential targets for nervous system manipulation.”