1977, Ohio State University
Barbara M Bayer, PhD is the Professor and Chair of the Department of Neuroscience. Dr. Bayer's research is focused on cellular and molecular mechanisms by which the brain communicates with circulating cells of the immune system. Earlier research in her laboratory demonstrated that exposure to opioid drugs and related compounds resulted in rapid changes in the pattern of expression of selective genes and proteins in blood lymphocytes. These changes were found to result in an impairment of the activity of immune cells often leading to increased vulnerability to diseases. Similar effects on immune cells were observed following exposure to certain types of stress. Current studies are focused on identifying specific cellular markers in circulating immune cells which predict the overall vulnerability of the immune system to a repeat exposure to stress and centrally acting drugs. These studies utilize a variety of multidisciplinary approaches including molecular and cellular based assays, genomics, pharmacological strategies, neurological imaging and quantitative histological methods. The underlying hypothesis of this research is that changes in circulating blood cells are sensitive and specific to alterations in neurochemistry and may provide a ‘sentinel’ readout to predict early neuropathic states accompanying neurodegenerative diseases, exposure to drugs and/or stress. The ultimate goal of this research is to determine whether these candidate readouts will be useful as a rapid and noninvasive approach for the early detection of CNS diseases, the progression of the disease and to evaluate the effectiveness of new potential therapies.