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Project Leaders

The SBC supports four interrelated research projects.

Dr. Jared Bushman, Ph.D. head shot of Jared Bushman

Assistant Professor of Pharmaceutical Science, School of Pharmacy | (307) 766-4189  | Health Sciences 480

Delineating and modulating the gliotic changes occurring after spinal cord injury

Project Summary:

Injury to the central nervous system (CNS) by disease or trauma causes a cascade of cellular responses that must occur to restore the delicate microenvironment necessary for function of the CNS. However, the changes caused to CNS tissue by these cellular responses may create an environment that is not permissive to functional regeneration. For patients, this results in permanent loss or aberration of function. In the case of spinal cord injury (SCI), patients often develop allodynia and other pain syndromes in addition to motor impairment. We are seeking to gain a better understanding of the cellular processes that occur following SCI that cause impairment and to develop therapies of small molecules and optogenetically responsive cells to promote functional repair of neural circuits.

We are specifically interested in the changes that occur in activated astrocytes and the alterations in the expression of glycans following SCI that occur during gliosis. We will develop a model of reactive astrogliosis using precursor derived astrocytes that can be used to delineate the signaling mechanisms responsible for astrogliosis. We hypothesize that extensive changes in glycosylation occur during astrogliosis that mediate the injury response after SCI and will test this by characterizing large scale changes in glycosylation after SCI. Glycomics is an advancing field and this would be the first study documenting the changes in glycosylation in the CNS after an injury.

Our second and third aims are more translational in nature and will develop therapeutics that both mitigate inhibitory signals after SCI and provide positive cues to stimulate regeneration. Chondroitin sulfate (ChS) is a glycan known to inhibit regeneration and we hypothesize that compounds can be identified that bind to and mask ChS from inhibitory receptors. To provide positive stimuli, we will develop and test an optogenetic system that we hypothesize can be used to control the behavior of cells (proliferation, gene expression etc) post-implantation by non-invasive means.

Dr. Kara Pratthead shot of Kara Pratt

Associate Professor, Department of Zoology and Physiology  | (307) 766-5589  |  Biological Sciences 305  | Faculty page

The role of presenilin in a developing visual circuit

Project Summary:

To function properly, a neural circuit needs to be built properly. How a population of newborn neurons self-assembles into networks that receive, integrate, and transform external stimuli into an internal perception is a fundamental and important question in neuroscience. To address this question, we study molecular mechanisms underlying nervous system development. For this project we focus on the role of a single molecule, Presenilin (PS), an interesting molecule that was first identified, and named, in the context of Alzheimer’s disease, but is now known to carry out a myriad of functions that are important during development. A comprehensive understanding of the function of PS throughout normal nervous system development, however, is lacking, and providing such a comprehensive understanding is the goal of this project. For this, we study PS in the developing Xenopus tadpole retinotectal projection, a model system ideally suited for the study of a protein across all stages of neural circuit development, and at the cell, circuit, and behavioral levels, something not presently possible in mammalian systems. This stems from the fact that, unlike its mammalian counterparts, the development of this vertebrate is entirely external, from fertilization and onwards, allowing for access to all stages of development without disrupting, nor needing to attempt to mimic, the embryo’s natural environment. By using this particular model system to study a molecule which has many substrates and is associated with both neural development and neurodegeneration, this project promotes the identification of links between the way a circuit develops, and how it functions, or dysfunctions later in life. Determining how pathologies at the single cell level impact visual circuit function and visually guided behaviors will provide key fundamental concepts both for the visual system and potentially sensory circuits in general.


Dr. Stephen Santorohead shot of Stephen Santoro

Assistant Professor, Department of Zoology and Physiology  |  (307) 314-2444  | Biological Sciences 200A  | faculty page

How an olfactory sensory neuron's choice of odorant receptor gene determines its wiring

Project Summary:

The precise creation and modulation of connections within the nervous system are known to critically depend on neuronal activity as well as the local synthesis of proteins within nerve termini. In this project, we are investigating the mechanisms by which sensory neuronal activity mediates the development and modulation of connectivity within the mammalian olfactory system, including the identification of key transcription factors and the elucidation of the role of axonal protein synthesis. Our studies employ the mouse model, which has an olfactory system organization that is similar to that of humans and which enables the use of powerful molecular and genetic tools for investigating mechanisms of activity-dependent development and plasticity. These studies may potentially lead to insights into the causes of neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders, which have been linked to defects in molecular components of activity-dependent signaling pathways and axonal protein synthesis, as well as the causes of age-related olfactory dysfunction, which affects a large fraction of people over the age of 65.


Dr. Baskaran "Baski" Thyagarajanhead shot of Baski

Associate Professor of Pharmaceutics and Neuroscience, School of Health Sciences  | (307) 766-6147  | Health Sciences 279  | Baskilab webpage


Modulation of pain signaling mechanisms by Botulinum Neurotoxin A

Project Summary:

This proposal investigates the novel mechanisms by which botulinum neurotoxin A suppresses pain, by inhibiting the sensitization of TRPV1/TRPA1 channel proteins by PKC and advances the safe, site specific use of the neurotoxin to counteract pain without use dependence or addiction.



Contact Us

Dr. Qian-Quan Sun, SBC director, Professor

Department of Zoology and Physiology

Laramie, WY 82071

Phone: 307-766-5602


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