Positions

Assistant Professor
Pediatrics-Neurology
Baylor College of Medicine
Houston, TX, US
Member
Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center
Baylor College of Medicine
Houston, Texas, United States

Education

Advanced Training from State University Of New York At Stony Brook
Advanced Training from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
B.Sc. from University Of Belgrade
Ph.D. from University Of Belgrade
M.D. from University Of Belgrade

Professional Interests

  • Imaging metabolomics
  • Neurogenesis

Professional Statement

The brain has a remarkable ability to generate new neurons in our center of learning and memory, throughout our lifespan. The rate of neurogenesis can be affected by many factors, from metabolism to physical and social activity. I focus on understanding the mechanisms of adult neurogenesis and the factors that affect it, using the tools of chemistry, genetics, computational and systems neurobiology, and neuroimaging. My ultimate goal is to develop regenerative therapies, i.e., to stimulate birth and survival of new neurons in a targeted and controlled manner to enable safe treatment of a variety of disorders that affect memory and mood.

We are specifically interested in mechanisms that increase the production and the survival of newly born neurons in the dentate gyrus. We study the role of electrical activity on the birth of new neurons, and the role of microglia, an innate immune cell in the brain, on their apoptotic death. We utilize the transgenic mice in which neural stem/progenitor cells, neuroblasts, or microglia are labeled with fluorescent proteins, and we use a variety of primary culture and slice culture systems, confocal and multi-photon microscopy techniques, biochemical assays, and behavioral paradigms.

We also aim to translate our basic science research to clinical studies. To achieve this, we investigate the metabolic fingerprints of cells of interest, both in vitro (using NMR) and in vivo (using nMRI), and develop signal processing methodologies that enable detection of these fingerprints in the live human brain. Thus, we have developed a both cellular and systems metabolomics strategy that allows for identification and quantification of specific metabolites as well as sets of metabolites that are impaired in certain disease conditions. Once a specific fingerprint is determined and validated in cellular and animal models, we can apply it for human brain imaging, using MRI spectroscopy. We have already discovered a biomarker enriched in neural stem/progenitor cells, which enables detection of these cells in the human hippocampus. Using the same approach, we are now investigating the metabolic fingerprints of microglia.

Overall, our studies should provide critical insights into the basic principles involved in the maintenance of neurogenesis in both normal and abnormal conditions. In addition, our ability to image different cell types and metabolites in both animal models and the human brain using MRI techniques, enables us to readily translate our basic science knowledge to clinical studies of a variety of human diseases where neurogenesis might be important.

Selected Publications