Katerina Akassoglou, PhD

Senior Investigator

Neurovascular Mechanisms of Inflammation and Tissue Repair

Our lab studies mechanisms of neurovascular regulation of inflammation and tissue repair. Our current research focuses on identifying the molecular and cellular interface that blood proteins utilize to interact with nervous system cells and change their functions. Our ultimate goal is to target these interactions for therapeutic intervention in neurologic diseases.

Rupture of the vasculature allows the entry of blood proteins into the brain with subsequent edema formation and neuronal damage in a variety of neurologic diseases, such as stroke, multiple sclerosis (MS), Alzheimer's Disease (AD) and spinal cord injury. Our studies aim to unravel the molecular mechanisms of the CNS response to neurovascular changes with the ultimate goal to develop novel therapeutic strategies for neurologic diseases.
We integrate animal modeling, histopathology, tissue culture and biochemistry techniques, as a multifaceted experimental approach to address the biological complexity of disease and repair mechanisms. We have developed in vivo imaging tools of the mouse brain and spinal cord that enable us to monitor disease processes in real time in the living animal.

Our work showed that blood proteins are not merely markers of blood-brain barrier (BBB) disruption, but play a causative role in CNS disease by exerting both pro-inflammatory and neurodegenerative effects. Our studies identified fibrinogen as a potential novel target for therapeutic intervention in neuroinflammatory diseases and led to the design of inhibitory peptides that specifically inhibit the damaging proinflammatory effects of fibrinogen in the CNS without affecting its effects in blood coagulation. Our work also showed that removal of fibrin from the CNS via proteolytic degradation is regulated by the neurotrophin receptor p75NTR via a novel signaling pathway whereby p75NTR directly binds the phosphodieserase isoform PDE4A to compartmentalize cAMP signaling in cells. We also showed novel biological functions for p75NTR as a regulator of cell differentiation that is critical for the progression of fibrosis and tissue repair. Overall, our studies have suggested that bi-directional molecular mechanisms of communication between the blood and the brain determine the degree of damage and the regenerative potential of tissues within and outside of the nervous system.  

Current Projects

  1. Functional role of BBB disruption in inflammation and neurodegeneration
  2. Fibrinogen signal transduction in neurons and glia
  3. In vivo imaging of neurologic disease using multiphoton microscopy
  4. Site-specific targeting of fibrinogen for therapeutic intervention in multiple sclerosis
  5. Physiological role of the neurotrophin receptor p75NTR in biological processes

Lab Members

Sophia Bardehle, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow

Belinda Cabriga
Research Associate

Maya Ellisman
Research Associate

Wanjiru Kamau-Devers
CIRM Undergraduate Research Fellow

Joni Miyagi, BA
Administrative Assistant

Mark Petersen, MD
Clinical Instructor

Victoria Rafalski, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow

Pamela Rios, BA
Research Associate

Jae Kyu Ryu, PhD
Staff Research Scientist

Lab Website