Suzanne Tharin Lab - Fluorescence micrograph showing corticospinal motor neurons (CSMN) labeled with green microbeads.  Injury to CSMN axons contributes to paralysis in spinal cord injury.

Welcome to the Tharin Lab

The long-term goal of the research in my lab is to discover treatments to restore function following spinal cord injury, either by manipulation of transplanted stem cells or by activation of endogenous progenitors. Corticospinal motor neurons are the brain neurons that control the most precise aspects of voluntary movement. They send long axons down the spinal cord, and injury to these cells is central to paralysis in spinal cord injury. Future regeneration strategies are limited by the current understanding of the development of corticospinal motor neurons from stem cells, as well as of the response of these neurons to spinal cord injury. Understanding at the molecular level how corticospinal motor neurons normally develop, and how they respond to spinal cord injury, will enable enhancement of regeneration, either via transplantation of cells such as induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells or by activation of endogenous progenitor cells.

Our laboratory is particularly interested in microRNAs — small non-coding RNAs that simultaneously regulate the expression of multiple genes — and seeks to identify microRNA controls both over corticospinal motor neuron development and over these cells’ response to spinal cord injury. We have identified several microRNAs that appear to be differentially expressed during corticospinal motor neuron development, and may play a central role in this process. We are testing the ability of these microRNAs to alter the fate of progenitor or stem cells and turn them into corticospinal motor neurons. We are also investigating the possible roles of these developmentally regulated microRNAs in spinal cord injury.

Footer Links: