Abstract: Every organ in the body is innervated by the autonomic nervous system. Through this innervation, autonomic neurons control organ function to maintain an equilibrium in response to internal and external cues. As we age, this autonomic function is altered, and so it is organ control. The main goal of my research is to identify the mechanisms behind age-associated autonomic dysfunction. My lab is especially interested in studying how aging affects the electrical activity and function of autonomic motor neurons. In the last decade, I have studied these autonomic motor neurons to answer relevant questions related to the modulation of neuronal excitability, the regulation of ion channels, and how these two aspects are linked to lipid metabolism in the context of pathological conditions. In the first part of my seminar, I will present some of my previous work on the molecular mechanisms underlying the neurodegenerative disorder called Niemann-Pick Type C Disease. I will show how we demonstrated that an accumulation of cholesterol in the lysosomes leads to changes in neuronal excitability. In the second part, I will present some of the work from my lab on the effects of aging on the function of autonomic motor neurons. We have found that aging leads to alterations in several ionic currents, resulting in neuronal hyperexcitability. During my chalk talk, I will go deeper into how we plan to investigate the mechanisms behind this autonomic hyperexcitability at the cellular and tissue levels. I am looking forward to discussing my research program with the broad scientific audience of the PBio department.
Host: Beth Buffalo