Servio H. Ramirez, PhD
Associate Professor, Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, School of Medicine
Dr. Ramirez’s laboratory focuses on the study of how brain pathologies affect the neurovascular unit (NVU) and how these changes lead to the disruption of the Blood-Brain Barrier (BBB). His ongoing research relates to the following areas of investigation:
- Assay development for in-vitro modeling of the BBB
- Characterization of temporal and spatial changes of the BBB during neuroinflammation
- Serological biomarker discovery for evaluation of BBB damage in brain injury
- Pharmacological intervention aimed at repairing and protecting the BBB
Assay development endeavors have allowed for a refinement in cell culture techniques for isolating primary human brain endothelial cells (BMVECs) from both fetal and adult tissue. BMVECs are now being used in high-throughput assays that allow for the evaluation of endothelial permeability, cellular activation and immune-endothelial interaction. Furthermore, BMVECs in combination with differentiated astrocytes and neurons, have allowed for the recapitulation of a syngenic NVU in microfluidic devices which have the potential to develop next generation BBB in-vitro models. These powerful sets of tools have been used to provide important insight into the deleterious effects that drugs of abuse have on barrier function. Within the context of drugs of abuse and HIV-1, the Ramirez lab has shown novel findings that the CB2 receptor, CD40 and GSK3β play critical roles in modulating BBB function. More recently, using an experimental animal model of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and cocaine-induced conditioned place preference (CCP), Dr. Ramirez’s laboratory has discovered that adolescent TBI induces chronic mesolimbic neuroinflammation which is concurrent with an enhancement in the rewarding effects of cocaine in mice during adulthood. These results offer the first preclinical support for epidemiological findings that suggest that sustaining TBI during adolescence may augment the rewarding effects of psychostimulants in adulthood. The laboratory also has multiple lines of investigations dedicated to the search for new serological biomarkers of CNS injury. In fact, across various animal models, new serological markers originating from shed endothelial exosomes have been consistently identified (the basis of a provisional US patent). Dr. Ramirez’s laboratory enjoys strong collaborations with numerous members of CSAR, the Temple research community, laboratories at others academic centers (nationally and internationally) and industry partnerships. For more information please visit the website.