Congratulations are in order for Junior Research Fellow Dr Auguste Vadisiute, who has been awarded a Medium Grant by the St John's College Research Committee to pursue research on the role of the immune system during brain development. Dr Vadisiute re-joins the Molnár group as an academic visitor to investigate how microglial cells interact with the developing neuronal network in a sex-specific manner and their involvement in neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism and schizophrenia.
Microglia constitute the resident immune cells of the central nervous system (CNS) that constantly monitor the cerebral microenvironment to respond to pathogens and damage. Dr Vadisiute's research will explore the molecular and cellular mechanisms of microglia-neuron interactions in normal and altered brain development. In particular, she will explore the largely neglected area of sex differences in CNS maturation and maintenance under both normal and pathological conditions.
Dr Vadisiute says: "Microglial sexual-dimorphism has been shown during brain development and some neurodevelopmental disorders and neurodegenerative diseases. These cells, and the trophic factors that are produced in neurons, astrocytes or microglia, can be pivotal to determine novel therapeutic strategies based on sex differences.
"Based on our own previous research, we hypothesise that after manipulation of neuronal activity in cortical pyramidal neurons, microglia rapidly changes its morphology and neurotrophin (brain derived neurotrophic factor - BDNF) production that shows sex differences."
Dr Vadisiute is working in collaboration with DPAG's Professor of Developmental Neuroscience Zoltán Molnár, former DPAG researcher and developmental neurobiologist at Kyoto Pharmaceutical University Dr Eri Kawashita, the Department of Engineering Science's Dr Ping Lu, the Department of Computer Science's Professor of Informatics Dr Georg Gottlob FRS, who is also a Fellow of St John's College, and founder and CEO of Neuro-Bio Professor Baroness Susan Greenfield CBE.