College of Biological Science
Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology
Dr. Ryan’s research focuses on stem cell based models of Parkinson’s disease and the effect of mitochondrial stress on the nervous system during diseased states in humans. Additional research is focused on nitric oxide induced protein S-nitrosylation and its effects on synaptic plasticity, as well as, direct differentiation of neural precursor cells to replenish damaged brain tissues. To this end, the Ryan lab is attempting to improve protocols to generate both oligodendrocyte and neuronal precursor cells to promote cell therapy after injury. Our focus is on the repopulation of neurons and oligodendrocytes lost in neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's Disease, Alzheimer's Disease and Multiple Sclerosis. To this end we are assessing new ways to generate high yields of neurons and oligodendrocytes as well as their ability to functionally incorporate into living tissue.
When studying the mechanisms of neurodegenerative disease, the traditional animal systems, while powerful, have limitations to what they can teach. Indeed, the lack of availability of primary human neurons has made evaluating the pathological consequences of genomic mutations arduous. The use of human induced pluripotent stem cell (hiPSC) technology overcomes these limitations by providing a source of human neurons from both normal and disease genetic backgrounds. We currently focus on stem cell based models of Parkinson's Disease (PD) to study how mitochondrial stress mechanisms impact on neuronal function in human disease. In addition, we are attempting to overcome the limited repair observed in many neurological disorders by employing directed differentiation to replenish lost or damaged tissue in the brain.