Stem Cells and Neuroimmunology

Stem cells have been the focus of numerous scientific endeavors due to their potential for mediating enhanced tissue repair, regeneration from degenerative diseases, and amelioration of age-related organ dysfunction. The possibility of harnessing stem cells to reverse normal aging raises the question as to how the aging process modulates tissue specific stem cell activity. In the central nervous system, investigating the effect of aging on neural stem/progenitor cell (NPC) function is of particular interest due to the associated onset of cognitive impairments, and lack of neural repair in response to neurodegenerative diseases. Previously, we discovered that molecular changes occurring in the aging systemic milieu negatively regulate NPC function and cognition. Furthermore, we identified a subset of systemic immune factors, as potential regulators of neurogenesis and cognitive function. Interestingly, immune signaling has emerged as a key player in the negative regulation of adult neurogenesis. Thus, one aim of our research is to investigate how immune-related molecular changes in the aging systemic milieu regulate NPC function and associated cognitive processes. We hope that by investigating mechanisms underlying impairments in NPC function, we can better understand how to ameliorate age-related cognitive dysfunction in the old brain.