New Neuro Lab Dedicated at UPMC Presbyterian

Pittsburgh, October 5, 2012 -- The University of Pittsburgh departments of Neurological Surgery and Neurology celebrated the opening of a new laboratory, October 4, dedicated to the study of basic pathophysiological mechanisms in neurological disorders.

The Neuroapoptosis and Translational Therapeutics Laboratory, under the direction of Robert M. Friedlander, MD, chairman, of the Department of Neurological Surgery and Endowed Professor of Neurosurgery and Neurobiology, will focus on acute (stroke) and neurodegenerative disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and Huntington’s disease).

Understanding how the cascading effects of apoptosis -- as mediated by the caspase apoptotic family -- play a role in disease, is a principal direction of the laboratory. In addition, the roles of mitochondrial dysfunction and transcriptional alterations are also major foci in determining the neurodegenerative processes in brain disorders.

The strengths of the laboratory are in clinical and experimental neurosurgery and neurology. Over the past 15 years, Dr. Friedlander has developed a premier ‘bench to bedside’ translational program to better characterize the disease pathogenesis and identify novel and re-use drug agents to ameliorate acute-neurological and chronic-neurodegenerative disorders. This part of the laboratory program involves drug discovery, the application of experimental in vitro and in vivo models of disease in translational studies. Dr. Friedlander's work has set the standard for others in the field. His work in completing pre-clinical drug trials in mouse models of neurological disease has acted as a conduit of therapeutic agents for direct translation to human clinical trials in Huntington’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis patients. This work has provided the basis for human trials of which they are both involved.

Drs. Friedlander's research has recently taken on a new and exciting direction in the application of stem cell investigations under the guidance and supervision of Diane Carlisle, PhD. Dr. Carlisle is a molecular biologist with significant experience in stem cell research. Apart from her own research program in the mechanisms by which chemical exposures during pregnancy lead to childhood and adult disease, she will collaborate with Dr. Friedlander, providing her expertise in developing iPSCs from patients with neurodegenerative disease to better understand disease pathogenesis and in the development therapeutic strategies for human disease.

Also, Yu Zhang, PhD, will play a critical collaborative and cross-over role in the laboratory. Dr. Zhang’s research interests include small RNA-related pathogenesis in neurodegenerative diseases, development of autologous cell-replacement therapy for Huntington’s disease, and targeted delivery of therapeutic nucleic acid to the central nervous system.

The new lab is located on the 5th floor A wing of UPMC Presbyterian, in the corridor connecting the hospital with the University of Pittsburgh's Scaife Hall