Mechanisms of Astrocyte Reactivity

Dr. Howe's lab is working to discover novel ways to protect the brain by renormalizing astrocyte homeostasis.

Astrocytes are key mediators of neural homeostasis. Disruption of astrocyte homeostasis as a result of autoimmunity, trauma, stroke or infection leads to maladaptive metabolic feedback loops that injure neurons and oligodendrocytes. The lab uses cell culture and animal models to test the hypothesis that therapeutic modulation of astrocyte reactivity will prevent neural injury in diseases ranging from neuromyelitis optica to traumatic brain injury.

Focus areas include:

  • Discovering the mechanisms underlying astrocyte reactivity induced by the pathogenic antibody present in patients with neuromyelitis optica
  • Characterizing the role of reactive astrocyte-induced granulocyte recruitment to the brain in patients with neuromyelitis optica
  • Dissecting the molecular cascades involved in astrocytic stress responses
  • Identifying biomarkers for astrocyte reactivity and measuring such markers in biospecimens from patients with neuromyelitis optica, neurodegenerative diseases and traumatic brain injury
  • Characterizing the metabolic cascades involved in astrocyte dyshomeostasis and testing novel therapeutic strategies for renormalizing homeostasis
  • Testing the therapeutic efficacy of proteasome and immunoproteasome inhibitors in diseases involving astrocyte reactivity

Claudia F. Lucchinetti, M.D., collaborates on this research.