Most neuroscientists’ work revolves around neurons—their activity, the molecules that underlie their function, the networks that they form, and the behaviors that they mediate. Other neuroscientists champion the underestimated importance of glial cells and their role in the development and maintenance of neural function. With the spotlight on neurons and glia, most neuroscientists completely overlook the central nervous system's vast and intricate network of blood vessels. These blood vessels are different from those in the rest of the body; the endothelial cells that comprise the blood vessels in the brain and spinal cord have a specific set of properties that enable them to deliver glucose, oxygen, and other essentials while keeping extraneous molecules from entering the pristine neural environment. We call this set of properties the blood-brain barrier (BBB).
The BBB temporarily breaks down in a series of diseases and conditions, and I am interested in the molecular mechanisms underlying the breakdown and eventual repair of the barrier. Specifically, as a neuroscience PhD student in Dr. Richard Daneman’s lab, I am currently working with an animal model of multiple sclerosis—a devastating autoimmune disease—hoping to identify and perhaps reverse the negative effects of BBB breakdown.
When I am not pondering the blood vessels of the brain and spinal cord, I enjoy running, cooking, baseball games, cheese, Bruce Springsteen, NPR, Agatha Christie novels, and writing for our program’s neuroscience blog, NeuWriteSD.org!