David Sretavan, MD, PhD


Axon Injury, Disease, and Novel Paradigms for Therapy

My lab is actively engaged in research on nerve and axon responses to injury, disease, and on novel methods for nerve repair.  Our interest in these areas is built upon previous work from the laboratory on developmental molecules that control axon growth and behavior during formation of the nervous system.  Collectively known as axon guidance molecules, these proteins bind receptors on cells to activate signaling pathways to fundamentally regulate cytoskeletal assembly/disassembly and calcium handling. Our research group is particularly interested in the functional roles axon guidance molecules may have in the adult nervous system, specifically in the settings of CNS injury and disease.  In recent work we have found that EphB3, a member of the EphB family of receptor tyrosine kinases is involved in the initial sprouting response of retinal ganglion cell axons following optic nerve damage.  In addition, the up-regulation of members of the EphB and ephrin-B families is also detected in more chronic-progressive forms of injury such as glaucoma, where retinal axon damage is thought to contribute to the neurodegeneration of retinal ganglion cells.

A new research area for the laboratory is the use of micro and nanosystems as enabling technology for axonal repair.  Methodologies for silicon-based fabrication can be combined with sensing and actuation principles to form biomedical devices that operate at the micron length scale of single cells.  This field of Micro ElectroMechanical Systems (MEMS) engineering, coupled with advances in nanoscience may open up new frontiers in biological research, medical diagnostic & therapeutics.  The Sretavan laboratory is working with a multidisciplinary group of researchers in MEMS engineering, nanoscience, biophysics, neurobiology and neurosurgery, to develop a microsystem platform for the microsurgical reconstruction and repair of single axons. 

Current Projects

  1. EphB and ephrin-B function and RGC axon injury in glaucoma
  2. Reconstitution of axon function following microscale repair
  3. Customizable molecular micropatterning for neuron and axonal arrays in culture
  4. Development of a microscale axon experimental platform

Lab Website