Department of Cell Biology & Neuroscience
Keck Center for Collaborative Neuroscience
Nelson Lab - 604 Allison Road
Piscataway, NJ 08855-8082
Molecular mechanisms of cell adhesion in the nervous system
A major focus of our laboratory is on neural stem cells and mesenchymal stem cells in spinal cord injury. We have isolated rat neural stem cell clones that can promote neurite growth both in culture and in vivo. Transplantation experiments are assessing the migration patterns of neural stem cells and mesenchymal stem cells in contused rat spinal cords, and their ability to protect neural tissue against secondary damage and/or promote nerve regeneration. Cells are labeled fluorescently to facilitate their detection and are being injected into the spinal cord at the site of injury immediately after injury or in a delayed manner via lumbar puncture, which does not require spinal laminectomy. Molecular studies are in progress to understand the effects of these cells in vivo and to understand mechanisms responsible for their action.
Molecular signaling pathways are also being tested using drugs (including siRNAs and microRNAs) by applying them to the spinal cord via direct injection or lumbar puncture. Histological techniques are being used to evaluate various parameters after spinal cord injury including white matter sparing by Luxol Fast blue staining, serotonergic fiber staining, corticospinal tracts, and macrophage activation and infiltration. Behavioral testing includes hindlimb function and allodynia pain measured using von Frye hairs to test for tactile sensitivity.