Michelle L. Block, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Anatomy & Cell Biology
Ph.D., Penn State University (2002)
Postdoctoral Fellow, NIEHS/NIH (2002 - 2007)
Research in my laboratory is centered on identifying how microglia, the resident innate immune cells in the brain, can become a chronic source of cytokines and reactive oxygen species that drive progressive neuron damage. More specifically, we strive to identify the triggers (environmental and endogenous disease processes) that initiate deleterious microglial activation, reveal the underlying mechanisms, and apply these findings toward the development of markers of ongoing silent neuropathology and therapeutic strategies capable of halting the progression of central nervous system (CNS) diseases/damage. While the major focus of our studies is on Parkinson’s disease, Gulf War Illness, and Alzheimer’s disease, our research indicates that many of the molecular and environmental mechanisms we are actively pursuing may impact the persistent nature of chronic neuron damage in diverse CNS conditions/diseases.
Current Research Projects:
1) Microglial Redox Signaling – How do reactive oxygen species reprogram microglia to become deleterious and can we use this information to abolish a neurotoxic phenotype?
2) Chronic Microglia Activation – Our prior work indicates that chronic pro-inflammatory activation is one critical component of microglia-mediated neurotoxicity. Why does resolution of the microglial pro-inflammatory response fail and how can we both identify and halt this pathology?
3) Air Pollution & Microglia – Increasing evidence links urban air pollution to CNS disease. How does air pollution affect microglia, what does it mean for CNS disease, and what can we do about it?