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  • 18/23
Computing Connections
Computing Connections
Linking the Brain and Immune System

Ning Quan, Ph.D. Photography by Katarzyna Bytnar

By Bethany Auglier

Ning Quan, Ph.D., recently earned a $20,000 pilot grant by the FAU Stiles-Nicholson Brain Institute to support his research understanding the communication between the nervous system and immune system. Dr. Quan is also the recipient of multimillion dollar grants from the NIH that investigate immune signaling in the brain.

“These potential discoveries will lay a foundation for creating medicine for the treatment of various neurodegenerative diseases,” said Quan, a professor in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine.

Specifically, Quan and researchers in his laboratory, will study how cells in a region of the brain called the hippocampus have altered genes due to interleukin-1,

a protein made by peripheral immune cells and specialized brain cells, called microglia. Interleukin-1 helps cells of the immune system to fight infections. It also has a role in regulating numerous central nervous system-controlled activities during sickness.

Quan will use state-of-the-art spatial genomics technology to determine gene expression patterns in specific brain regions, he said. “We are very excited with this approach, which will allow us to collaborate with a bioinformatics expert, Dawei Li, Ph.D., (associate professor, Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine) to discover critical pathways that might be involved in neuroinflammation mediated damage in brain regions important for cognitive functions,” Quan said.

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