Andrew Grande, MD, a fellow in cerebrovascular/endovascular neurosurgery in the neurosurgery department, has earned the 2010 William P. Van Wagenen Fellowship. The $120,000 fellowship, presented by the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, is arguably the most prestigious in neurosurgery.
Grande, who sees patients at UC Health University Hospital and Mayfield Clinic, will study with respected professor Magdalena Götz, PhD, at the Munich Institute of Stem Cell Research. He will focus on neural (brain) stem cells, which were first discovered in the 1990s and which have the potential to divide and produce new cells, a process called neurogenesis.
Grande will investigate the ability of neural stem cells to replicate and communicate with other cells within the brains of animal models. The research could hold clues about how the brain tries to heal following an injury, such as stroke, and how brain stem cells might be coaxed into creating a flood of healthy new cells for an injured area.
Specifically, Grande proposes to use retroviruses as a vehicle for inserting genes and transcription factors—special proteins that control the transfer of DNA—into various mouse models that have been engineered to express injury in different layers of brain tissue.
“I hope to demonstrate that not only are new neurons produced, and not only do they establish a connection with other cells, but that they are in fact talking to one another,” says Grande. “And then I would hope to demonstrate that this communication leads to function, whether it is related to movement or vision.”
If scientists understand which transcription factors are important to the birth of new brain cells they could potentially rev up the process by exposing the desired protein to a chemical.
Grande is the third person from UC to earn the Van Wagenen distinction. John Tew, MD, clinical director of the UC Neuroscience Institute at University Hospital, won the award in 1969. Edmund Frank, MD, a graduate of the UC College of Medicine and UC’s residency program, was honored in 1984.