|Phone:||(519) 824-4120 x 52919|
|Office:||Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology|
University of Guelph
Research: Dr. Ryan’s research focuses on stem cell based models of Parkinson’s Disease (PD) to study how mitochondrial stress mechanisms impact on neuronal function in human disease. Learning and memory has at its core modifications to tiny spine like structures that exist on a special subset of neurons in the brain known as “spiny neurons.” These spines must move, adapt, grow and retract in response to chemical neurotransmitters in the brain, a process that as a whole is believed to be the cellular manifestation of learning, known as synaptic plasticity. The spines themselves are thought to serve as basic units of memory storage. While much work has focused directly on the chemical signals that mediate communication in the brain and the ion channels that are opened as a result, little is known of the specific signalling pathways that control the actual generation, shape and loss of individual spines. Nitric Oxide is unique second messenger in that it can directly alter the proteins responsible for dynamic changes to spine morphology. Nitric Oxide signalling may regulate synaptic plasticity by altering the density and morphology of spines through a process called S-nitrosylation. Dr. Ryan’s lab is monitoring what proteins are S-nitrosylated by Nitric Oxide under conditions of spine growth, spine stabilization and spine retraction. This research will further our understanding neural architecture and the means by which cells of the brain communicate.