Associate Professor, Department of Cell and Neurobiology, Keck School of Medicine
Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Sciences, School of Pharmacy
Molecular genetics and pathogenesis of epilepsy
Cellular and molecular mechanisms of excitotoxic neuronal death
The general focus of my research program is on understanding the relationship between complex traits and genetic susceptibility to disorders of the central nervous system. The laboratory focuses on localizing and identifying genes that determine seizure-induced excitotoxic cell death susceptibility in an animal model of epilepsy. Previously, we had determined that resistance to seizure-induced excitotoxic cell death varies among commonly used inbred mouse strains, and some of this variation is assumed to have a genetic basis. Using these mice, we had previously identified three chromosomal regions or loci on Chrs 4, 15, and 18 that contain genes that influence susceptibility to excitotoxin-induced cell death in mice using genome exclusion mapping with DNA-based markers. Candidate genes are then isolated and characterized at both the DNA, mRNA and protein level to examine natural gene variation in cell death sensitive and resistant strains of mice. The identification of these epilepsy susceptibility genes may illuminate new pathways involved in epilepsy as well as hypoxia, stroke and other related pathologies, and could also lead to the identification of diagnostic biomarkers and potential gene therapies for early intervention.