DSU’s Neuroscience Research Program has been awarded a three-year, $433,645 grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
Dr. Melissa Harrington will give some of her students hands-on experience in the spinal motor neurons research the grant is funding.
The grant is an Academic Research Enhancement Award that will fund DSU’s research into the development of spinal motor neurons – the nerve cells that drive contractions of skeletal muscle.
Dr. Melissa Harrington, DSU professor of biological sciences and director of the joint DSU/UD Delaware Center for Neuroscience Research, is the principal investigator of the research grant. She said that two graduate students and one undergraduate student will work with her on the research.
Dr. Harrington’s lab will use electrophysiology to measure the activity of motor neurons and confocal imaging to visualize motor neuron synapses. These experiments will help determine what neurotransmitter is released at synapses formed by motor neurons on other neurons, and investigate how contact with muscle cells and the formation of neuromuscular junctions influence which neurotransmitter is released.
It is hoped, in turn, that the findings will lead to new insights into the pathophysiology of neuromuscular disorders, including developmental motor neuron diseases such as spinal muscular atrophy and muscular dystrophy.
This research will build on previous published work by Dr. Harrington’s lab concerning motor neurons.