Armin Blesch, PhD
Professor of Neurological Surgery
Dr. Blesch received his Ph.D. in Genetics and Neurology and subsequently continued his education in neuroscience at the University of California, San Diego(UCSD). At UCSD, his work was focused on the role of neurotrophic factors in axonal regeneration and Alzheimer’s disease and gene therapy in the nervous system leading to a faculty position as Associate Professor. Before joining Indiana University in his current position, he also spent several years at the Spinal Cord Injury Center at Heidelberg University Hospital, Germany to build a program in basic and translational science in spinal cord injury research.
His research has been funded by NIH/NINDS, VA, International Spinal Research Trust, Wings for Life, German Research Foundation, EU, International Foundation for Research in Paraplegia, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, Adelson Program in Neural Repair, Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, Indiana Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research Fund and Morton Cure Paralysis Fund.
Dr. Blesch has served as grant reviewer for numerous federal agencies and national and international foundations in the US, Canada, Australia, UK, Ireland, Spain, Austria, Germany and European Union.
Dr. Blesch is a dedicated and effective teacher and mentor, providing both formal coursework and individual instruction. He serves as a thesis and research advisor to master's and doctoral students and as faculty mentor to undergraduate students.
1986-1992 Undergraduate student, University of Würzburg, Germany, Department of Biology (Major: Genetics; Minors: Microbiology, Biochemistry, Cell and Developmental Biology)
1992-1995 Graduate student, Department of Neurology, University of Würzburg, Germany, Laboratory of Ulrich Bogdahn, M.D. Title of thesis: "Cloning and expression of a novel melanoma inhibiting protein".
Positions and Employment:
1995-1998 Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Neurosciences, University of California, San Diego, Laboratory of Mark Tuszynski, M.D., Ph.D.
1998-2002 Assistant Project Scientist, Department of Neurosciences, University of California, San Diego (UCSD)
2002- 2006 Assistant Professor of Neurosciences, Department of Neurosciences, UCSD
2006-2014 Associate Professor of Neurosciences, Department of Neurosciences, UCSD
2010-2015 Head, Laboratory for Neuroregeneration, Spinal Cord Injury Center, Heidelberg University Hospital, Germany
2014-2015 Professor, Spinal Cord Injury Center, Heidelberg University Hospital, Germany
2015- Professor of Neurological Surgery, Indiana University School of Medicine
2015- Primary Investigator, IU Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research Group, Stark Neurosciences Research Institute, IUSOM
2015- Primary Investigator, Stark Neurosciences Research Institute, IUSOM
NB 500B SNEU
Regeneration and Plasticity in the Injured Spinal Cord.
The overall goal of our research is to identify mechanisms that influence neuronal plasticity and regeneration in the injured mammalian nervous system to identify new targets and techniques for therapeutic intervention. Current studies investigate the potential role of neural stem cells, biomaterials and neuronal activity as a means for spinal cord regeneration, and the structural changes underlying the development of pain after spinal cord injury.The latter together with evaluation of bladder dysfunctionand autonomic responses after injury represent clinically relevant outcome measures complementing a strong focus on cellular and molecular mechanisms.
Ongoing studies include:
Neural stem cell transplantation: Advancements in the generation and differentiation of neural stem cells from adult sources by cellular reprogramming has opened fascinating new opportunities to investigate questions that were impossible to address just a few years ago.In particular, we are interested in means to manipulate the differentiation of neural stem cells into phenotypes appropriate for neuronal relays in the spinal cord and means to augment the integration of transplanted cells in the spinal cord circuitry. To address these questions, we take advantage of new methods to manipulate the activity of grafted cells and to introduce specific mutations into stem cells.The main hypothesis underlying these experiments is that new transplanted neurons will only be able to have a functional influence if they are appropriately integrated into the injured circuitry.
Biomaterials: Regeneration of axons for long distances and across a lesion site remains a major challenge especially in lesions of the human spinal cord.Achieving linear axonal growth across a lesion in the spinal cord is likely necessary for axons to reach the distal host spinal cord.In collaboration with Dr. Müller (Univ. of Regensburg, Germany) and Dr. Weidner, Heidelberg University Hospital, we are using anisotropic alginate capillary gels to physically guide axons across the lesion site.Modification of channel diameters, cellular seeding into the channels and surface modification with peptides are variables that we continue to investigate.Pain in spinal cord
Pain in spinal cord injury: In mouse models of spinal cord injury, we aim to address mechanisms of neuropathic pain and activity-dependent approaches to modulate spinal cord plasticity underlying pain.Mouse models will allow us to silence or ablate specific subpopulations of sensory neurons to determine their influence on pain responses.
Electrical stimulation: There is considerable evidence that electrical stimulation can enhance axonal regeneration in the PNS. In the CNS, some studies suggest that sprouting of spared fibers can be enhanced by electrical stimulation. We aim to determine whether electrical stimulation can also enhance regeneration in the CNS and to define the mechanisms underlying these responses.