The Office of the Vice President for Research recognizes Michelle Theus, an assistant professor of molecular and cellular neurobiology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, for investigating efforts to help our brains regenerate after stroke or injury.
Theus believes that a better understanding of how the brain restores blood flow to damaged tissue following a stroke will offer new treatment clues.
The brain develops “collateral” blood vessels which re-route blood flow after a vessel becomes blocked. When the brain suffers from a blockage or clot, a network of replacement vessels, known as collaterals, can restore oxygen and nutrients to damaged tissue.
She uses a gene-targeting approach to understand how stem cells contribute to adult central nervous system repair following traumatic injury. In particular, she is studying a family of proteins that inhibit the development and growth of nerve fibers in the brain. The proteins, known as Eph receptors, impede the formation of collateral vessels and prevent the brain from mending itself after a stroke.
The goal is to find a drug that blocks this pathway and promotes remodeling of a new collateral network to improve blood flow and limit tissue damage from a stroke.
Theus recently received a three-year, $483,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health for her research.
She is a collaborator in the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine's Stem Cell Initiative, a program that brings researchers and clinicians together to explore potential benefits of stem cell research and therapies in both animal and human health.
She is part of the One Health initiative, which unites human and animal health through the integration of human medicine, veterinary medicine, and environmental science. Efforts in the development and evaluation of new diagnostic methods, medicines, and vaccines can ultimately prevent and control of diseases across species.
Theus was a postdoctoral scholar at the Miami Project to Cure Spinal Cord Paralysis at the University of Miami. She received her doctoral degree in Neuropathology and Laboratory Medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina.