Study of the nervous system has a long tradition at City of Hope, which was one of the first institutions in North America to establish a neurobiology research department.

The Department of Neurosciences offers a multidisciplinary research and training environment in neurobiology, with a particular focus on developmental aspects of the nervous system. Research in the department encompasses molecular and cellular neurobiology, genetics and neurophysiology, with ongoing studies in neurogenesis and synaptogenesis, migration and specification, degeneration and embryonic stem cell differentiation.

Researchers in the department collaborate with colleagues in other basic science departments and divisions as well as clinical researchers in neuro-oncology programs, focusing on cancer immunotherapy and neurosurgery.
Laboratory Research
The Department of Neurosciences spans a broad range of research interests; grouped into three major categories:

I.Several investigators are interested in the earliest periods of neurogenesis and lineage commitment, and are examining stem and progenitor cells in developing and mature brain:
  • Qiang Lu, Ph.D. – Neural Progenitor/Stem Cells in Brain Development
    Dr. Lu’s research is concerned with intercellular signaling by ephrins and Eph receptors and their regulation of neuronal birth and migration during early development of the cerebral cortex.
  • Yanhong Shi, Ph.D. – Nuclear Receptors in Neural Stem Cells and Adult Neurogenesis
    Dr. Shi is studying the nuclear receptors that control generation and differentiation of neural lineage stem cells in the adult nervous system.
  • Michael Barish, Ph.D. – Neurobiology of Development
    Dr. Barish is investigating early electrical activity in the developing hippocampus and cortex and its relationship to neural birth, migration and maturation.

II.Several faculty have research foci in neural specification, processes that impart individuality to developing neurons, and in the functioning of mature neurons.
  • Paul Salvaterra, Ph.D. – Molecular Neurobiology
    Dr. Salvaterra’s research is focused on the regulation of transmitter phenotype, how gene expression is coordinated to allow synthesis and release of individual neurotransmitters.
  • Toshifumi Tomoda, Ph.D. – Axonal Trafficking / Neurodegeneration
    Dr. Tomoda is interested in membrane transport and cycling, and its role in axon and dendrite growth, differentiation of synapses, and stress-induced autophagy.
  • Kazuo Ikeda, Ph.D. – Neurophysiology
    Dr. Ikeda studies the mechanisms of synaptic transmission and plasticity, focusing on endocytosis of synaptic vesicle membrane from presynaptic terminals and processes of recovery from vesicle depletion as a consequence of activity.

III.Several faculty members also have projects that relate their fundamental research interests to mechanisms underlying diseases of the human nervous system.
  • Dr. Salvaterra is developing Drosophila models for Alzheimer’s and other degenerative diseases.
  • Dr. Lu is examining how alteration in the neural stem cell decision to proliferate or differentiate controlled by ephrin/Eph receptor signaling may be involved in the earliest stages of tumorigenesis.
  • Dr. Tomoda is investigating possible connections between genes involved in membrane cycling and autophagy, and several diseases including Huntington’s and schizophrenia.
  • Dr. Barish, in collaboration with Karen Aboody, M.D. , (Hematology/HCT) and Carlotta Glackin, Ph.D. , is examining the molecular mechanisms of neural progenitor cell migration to glioma and tumors outside the brain, and targeting of these tumors with genetically-modified therapeutics using immortalized neural progenitor cells.
  • Dr. Glackin and her laboratory are investigating the molecular mechanisms of a bHLH transcription factor, TWIST, in regulating cellular invasiveness. Understanding these mechanisms has allowed her laboratory to develop novel genetically-modified therapeutics that interferes with TWIST function to competitively inhibit cellular invasion of tumor cells.
  • Dr. Neal Prakash is the Chief of Neurology and the Director of Neurological Optical Imaging.  His interests include:  1. developing novel imaging techniques that can differentiate between tumor and healthy brain during surgery. And 2) establishing rodent models that quantify central and peripheral nervous system toxicities (i.e., “chemobrain” and peripheral neuropathy) and the interactions between 1. primary and metastatic brain tumors, 2. treatments, and 3. metabolic states (i.e., ketogenic state, normal diet, and diabetes).