Current Research and Scholarly Interests
Animal models offer a unique opportunity to study the pathogenesis of neurologic diseases afflicting both humans and animals. For example, non-human primates develop many of the same cognitive deficits and neuropathologic changes as occur in humans. Inherited diseases in dogs reliably replicate many hereditary diseases in humans. We can learn much by studying the temporal and spatial evolution of the lesions in the nervous system in spontaneously occurring or induced diseases in animals.The rapid development of the dog genome map brings an important benefit to the study of inherited canine diseases. Comparative gene mapping among human, murine, and canine genomes have the potential to rapidly identify mutations that underlie various disease syndromes. My research focuses on the identification and characterization of animal models of human diseases. These animal models may occur in non-human primates, dogs, cats, goats, mice in which mutations have been induced, or in other less common laboratory species such as bears. By using these diverse species we can ask how the nervous system lesions are related to functional deficits? What is the biological significance of the lesions? How do the lesions begin? How do they evolve? What is the function of the cells early in disease when therapeutic intervention would be most advantageous? By evaluating the pathology and physiologic function or behavior in animals, we can begin to design rational interventional strategies to prevent, treat, or to delay the onset of neurodegenerative diseases.