The complete lack of effective biomedical interventions to treat debilitating neurological disorders including Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and autism spectrum disorder has lead to a need to improve the characterization of the cellular and molecular mechanisms that promote neurological diseases. Recent findings strongly implicate dysfunctional immune responses in the pathogenesis of most, if not all, neurological disorders. To characterize the immunological pathways that provoke neurological diseases a center for neuroimmunology research was established at UVA. The center for Brain Immunology and Glia (BIG) unites expertise in basic neuroscience, neuroinflammation, neurodegeneration, CNS infectious disease and immunology to tackle this important biomedical area. Neuroimmunology research at UVA utilizes cutting-edge approaches to study the immunological underpinnings of multiple major neurological disorders including multiple sclerosis (MS), stroke, traumatic brain and spinal cord injury, CNS infectious disease, autism spectrum disorder, Alzheimer’s disease, brain cancer, depression, Rett syndrome, and schizophrenia. Much of this work is focused on identifying the specific immune pathways that spur CNS disease and investigating ways to harness the immune system to develop novel treatment strategies.
The overwhelming medical and societal burdens imposed by neurological disorders demands scientists with strong foundations in both neuroscience and immunology. Thus graduate students studying neuroimmunology at UVA are immersed in a dynamic and interdisciplinary training experience that encompasses neuroscience, immunology, behavioral neurobiology, imaging, bioinformatics and genomics, cell biology and clinical neurology. Our goal is to equip trainees with the necessary critical and creative thinking skills, technical expertise, and conceptual foundation in neuroscience and immunology to tackle important problems in all areas of neuroimmunology research. It is an exciting time to study neuroimmunology at UVA and we look forward to training the next generations of scientists who will lead the way in providing fundamental new insights into immune-mediated regulation of neurological function and disease.
Graduate students in the neuroimmunology research discipline are supported by the Medical Scientists Training Program (MSTP) grant, Neuroscience Training Grant, Immunology Training Grant, Pharmacology Training Grant and Wagner Fellowship.