Dr. Ben Szaro, a professor in the department of Biological Sciences studies axonal development and specifically neurofilaments, a primary component of the axonal cytoskeleton. Dr. Szaro explains that when neurofilament protein tangles form in neurons, the cells die, and this can lead to any number of neurodegenerative diseases. The specific characteristics of these accumulated tangles differ by neurodegenerative disease, be it Lewy Body disease, Alzhemier’s or ALS.
To help understand the disease process, Dr. Szaro relies on Xenopus laevis or as he affectionately calls these animals, “the lab rat of the frog world.” Frog optic axons, unlike those of mammals, can regenerate their optic nerves following injury.
Originally focused on identifying proteins responsible for axon regeneration in amphibians that are lacking in mammals, Dr. Szaro now wants specifically to understand how hnRNP K regulates expression of cytoskeletal proteins crucial for axonogenesis. He is looking at how hnRNP K serves as the central hub of a larger post-transcriptional regulatory module involved in regulating the trafficking and translation of multiple cytoskeletal-related mRNAs that are needed to build the axon.
It was long before the ice bucket challenge splashed across our computer screens that Dr. Szaro became engrossed in this examination. It is safe to expect that Dr. Szaro and his team will continue this critical research into the future.
Aug 01, 2015