The Rutgers University Brain Health Institute (BHI) is expanding its purview to include research on multiple sclerosis, by collaborating with an MS researcher from the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (RWJMS), New Brunswick, N.J.-based Rutgers said in a press release.
Cheryl Dreyfus, professor and chair of the Department of Neuroscience and Cell Biology at UMDNJ-RWJMS, will head a research team that will study cells “that support and protect neurons in the normal nervous system and brain with hope that this research someday will translate into strategies that can be used to help those suffering with neurological diseases like MS, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s,” the announcement said.
“The collaboration with the Brain Health Institute is so exciting because it allows me the opportunity to extend my research in a way that I could not have done alone,” Dreyfus who will also work with other Rutgers and RWJMS scientists and clinicians who see and care for MS patients, said in a statement.
Previously the BHI’s research focused on autism, Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia and auditory aging.
But the institute’s mission is to unite the faculty at Rutgers who have deep strengths in neuroscience, genetics and related disciplines with New Jersey’s life sciences industry to accelerate research on neurological disease and disorders, Robin Davis, a neuroscientist and BHI acting director, Rutgers said in it press release,
As part of the “Our Rutgers, Our Future” campaign, BHI received a $1.5 million gift to endow a faculty position to direct the institute.
Dreyfus and her researchers have been studying a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).
“The protein not only assists in creating new brain cells but also plays a critical role in protecting these cells from dying and encouraging nerve impulses within the brain,” the press release sad. “In those with MS, the protective covering, or myelin sheath, that insulates brain cell processes, is 0damaged, causing inflammation, injury, scarring and other neurological problems.”
Studies have found that BDNF enhances human brain functioning and is vital for thinking and learning.
“Low levels of BDNF have been associated with a variety of neurological conditions including depression, epilepsy, schizophrenia and other cognitive functions,” according to the press release.