PiN Faculty Member - Zhigang He, PhD, BM

Zhigang He, PhD, BM

Professor of Neurology

Boston Children's Hospital
F.M. Kirby Neurobiology Center
Center for Life Science, Room 13-076
3 Blackfan Circle
Boston, MA 02115
Tel: 617-919-2353
Fax: 617-919-2380
Visit my lab page here.

Restoring lost function after spinal cord injury or other types of CNS injuries is a major challenge of contemporary neuroscience.  A key culprit of functional deficits is the disruption and/or dysfunction of axonal connections connecting different parts of CNS.  In order to develop novel neural repair strategies, our research has been addressing the following questions:

First, why injured axons cannot regenerate in adult mammalian CNS? Our past studies identified key molecular players, such as PTEN and SOCS3, in controlling the intrinsic regenerative ability of neurons (Park et al., Science 2008, Sun et al., Nature 2011, Bei et al., Cell 2016, Norsworthy et al., Neuron 2017). By using models of optic nerve injury and spinal cord injury, our current studies aim to maximize the extent of neuronal survival and axon regeneration and enhance their functional integration.

Second, as many human spinal cord injuries are anatomically incomplete but exhibit complete paralysis, we are interested in why such spared axons are functionally dormant. Following our recent studies revealing injury-induced KCC2 dysfunction as a potentially key mechanism (Chen et al., Cell 2018), our ongoing studies are designed to explore other cellular and molecular mechanisms that control and limit the function of spinal circuitry after injury.

Third, in order to design tailored neural repair strategies after spinal cord injury, a new direction in the lab is to crack the code of the control of the spinal cord function by the brain, by dissecting the role of different spinal descending projections. While our recent efforts dissected the role of cortex-derived corticospinal axons in skilled motor control (Wang et al., Cell 2017) and sensory processing (Liu et al., Nature 2018), we are continuing to study the function of brainstem-derived reticulospinal and other descending projections. Characterizing how these descending inputs control motor output and integrate sensory in determining the functional outputs of the spinal cord will help design rational strategies of promoting functional recovery after injury.

Together, we expect that answering these questions will establish important principles for exploiting regenerative medicine to treat CNS injury and other neurological diseases. 

Last Update: 1/27/2021


For a complete listing of publications click here.



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