Program in Nervous System Development and Repair


Axons are a fundamental part of neurons.  Their bioelectrical impulses convey the information that enables the nervous system to function properly.  The IRM Program in Regenerative Neuroscience brings together investigators from various departments within the Schools of Medicine, Arts and Sciences, and Engineering and Applied Sciences to investigate the mechanisms underlying the normal functions of axons, as well as their development, myelination, degeneration, and the regenerative response to injuries.  Understanding these mechanisms is the key to treating and restoring injured axons in the human nervous system in such conditions as peripheral neuropathy, peripheral nerve and spinal cord injuries, and demyelinating diseases such as multiple sclerosis.


  • Identifying the axonal antigen that is the target of the autoantibodies in the human disease acquired neuromyotonia  (Lancaster, et al.: Ann. Neurol. 2011).
  • Identifying the mechanism by which defects in axonal transport lead to neurodegeneration  (Moughamian and Holzbaur: Neuron 2012).
  • Developing new models to define molecular mechanisms involved in axon injury, revealing how injured neurons utilize cellular energy to maintain axonal integrity  (Fang, et al.: Current Biology, 2012).
  • Visualizing for the first time the process of nerve regeneration in living vertebrates  (Rosenberg, et al.: J. Neurosci., 2012).


  • Gordon Barr’s lab is following up on their finding that networks of neuronal genes are differentially regulated after spinal cord transection  (J. Comp. Neurol., 2011).
  • The Grinspan lab is developing strategies to inhibit the inhibitors of remyelination.
  • The Holzbaur lab is defining the mechanisms regulating the axonal transport of APP, how dynactin regulates microtubule dynamics in the axon and how this is affected by mutations linked to Parkinsonism, and how dynein interacts with ncam180 to stabilize synapses.
  • Wenqin Luo’s lab is studying how different kinds of sensory axons form their distinct receptive fields in the skin during development and how this organization changes in pathological conditions.
  • Doug Smith’s lab is creating lab-grown transplantable nervous tissue constructs to repair nervous system injuries.



Michael Granato, Ph. D., is Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology.  Dr. Granato's research has elucidated a genetic program for the connectivity of motor neurons, and has pioneered work on the visualization and genetics of nerve de- and re-generation in live intact animals.  His work is aimed to understand the process of nerve regeneration following injury or in disease.
Steven S. Scherer, M.D., Ph.D., is Professor of Neurology and Chief of Neuromuscular Division of the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.  Dr. Scherer is an expert on peripheral neuropathies.  His research examines the cellular and molecular basis of genetic neuropathies.