MODELS OF TBI AND BRAIN INFECTION
The interests in this laboratory center on two major projects: the effect of mild TBI on the ferret and the ferret as a model for studying microcephaly and other neural involvement after infection with Zika virus.
In studying mild TBI, the primarily focus is on the effects of blast injury. Explosive blast has become one of the signature injuries for warfighters involved in recent US conflicts. Despite the number of people involved, very little is known about the pathophysiology underlying this injury. The ferret as an animal model is interesting to use in this regard as the smallest mammal with a convoluted cerebral cortex. Using the ferret in blast injury studies reveals a number of features that differ from those evoked after similar injuries in a rodent. Efforts are focused on inflammatory markers, behavioral changes, and abnormally expressed tau proteins.
The TBI project also involves collaboration with NIH researchers using advanced imaging techniques to correlate MRI, DTI, and complex analysis of MRI derived images with underlying structure. More recently we have been studying the effects of combined injury on behavioral outcomes along with cellular and biochemical alterations after TBI.
In the project studying the Zika virus, we are assessing the impact of Zika infection on the offspring of pregnant ferrets. As an animal with a convoluted cortex also susceptible to microcephaly the ferret is an excellent animal model to study this problem. We have found substantial changes in brain and skull morphology of the offspring after Zika infection of pregnant mothers. Abnormal blood vessels throughout the telencephalon have also been observed.