Radek Dobrowolski: On the Front Lines of Research Into Brain Injuries

Radek Dobrowolski: On the Front Lines of Research Into Brain Injuries

Rutgers University-Newark scientists investigating why a brain protein linked to Alzheimer's increases after traumatic brain injury

Scientists at Rutgers University-Newark are trying to determine why the brain protein linked to Alzheimer’s disease increases after a traumatic brain injury.

Radek Dobrowolski, above, and his team are experimenting with chemical compounds they believe could retore communication between brain cells.
Photo by Eleonora Luongo
Radek Dobrowolski, assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences/Faculty of Arts and Sciences, is the principal investigator of “Brain Injury Induced Alzheimer’s-Like Disease,” a multi-school research collaboration aimed at developing new therapeutic compounds to prevent the destructive processes within the brain that are triggered by traumatic brain injury.

Research has shown that the Tau protein causes a plaque buildup in the brain that prevents neurons from communicating, leading to memory loss and the inability to perform even simple tasks. Understanding why this happens could pave the way to interrupting this damaging process, Dobrowolski said. 

Dobrowolski and his team studied neural cells that they created in the lab from skin cells in an effort to gain a better understandng of how these cells respond to injury and trauma and why the communication process is disturbed. They are experimenting with chemical compounds they believe could retore communication between brain cells.

They are also investigating the breakdown of the messaging system in the brain to determine why the synapses -- which carry messages between neurons -- stop working. Dobrowolski and Tufts collaborator Thomas Biederer are looking at what happens when a normal process that allows healthy cells to break down damaged parts and elimnate them gets out of control and causes memory loss and the ability to do everyday tasks, symptoms of Alzheimer's. The researchers are seeking to better understand the relationship between the accumulation of the Alzheimer linked protein Tau and the synapse collapse.

The research could provide insight into the outcomes of head injuries suffered by troops in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as increasing concern of concussions on the football field. Dobrowolski said the U.S. Department of Defense finds the project promising and has invited the collaborators to submit a proposal for funding.

brain scan
Human neurons with Alzheimer's disease after reprogramming from a skin biopsy.
Photo by Radek Dobrowolski
Rutgers University-Newark has also awarded Dobrowolski and his collaborators an $80,000 Initiative for Multidisciplinary Research Teams (IMRT) Awards in May 2015. Through the IMRT Awards, which range from $26,720 to $80,000, Rutgers University-Newark seeks to invest in collaborative academic and research programs that promote interdisciplinary research and collaboration among faculty, departments, schools, and centers as well as other anchor institutions, and help faculty to compete more effectively for external funding. Dobrowolski with a diverse group of collaborators: Dr. Kevin Pang, Veterans Administration in East Orange; Bryan J. Pfister, New Jersey Institute of Technology; Steven W. Levison, New Jersey Medical School; Thomas Biederer, Tufts University; and RU-N doctoral biology student Chaitali M. Saqcena.

Prior to coming to Rutgers University Newark Dobrowolski was a postdoctoral research associate at Howard Hughes Medical Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles.  Dobrowolski received his diploma in biology, in molecular genetics and his Ph.D. in cell and molecular biology, both from the University of Bonn, Germany.  During his studies there he worked as a scientific assistant and a scientific co-worker in the university’s Institute of Genetics.

A member of the NY Academy of Sciences and the Gerontological Society of America, Dobrowolski’s research has also been supported through grants from the American Federation for Aging Research (AFAR), the International Alzheimer's Association, the Brain Health Institute of NJ, and NJC Brain Injury Research.  He also was recognized with the 2015 Margaret M. Cahn Research Award for promising contributions to the study of Alzheimer's disease.   

To read more about his research, go to:  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=Dobrowolski%2C%20Radek[Full%20Author%20Name]%20OR%20Dobrowolski%2C%20Radoslaw[Full%20Author%20Name]