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Neurosciences and Behavioral Health Center

Brain Immunology Research

This story originated in our online journal, Innovation. 

The new neuroimmunology center at the UVA School of Medicine grew from a recognition that the best way to advance the field was to bring together top researchers regardless of discipline.  The result is “BIG” – UVA’s Brain Immunology and Glia center, a new collaboration of top experts at the School of Medicine and beyond.

“The beauty of science is when people from different disciplines meet together and discuss ideas – and this center will allow that,” said Jonathan Kipnis, PhD, Director for Brain Immunology and Glia. 


The underlying philosophy is that good ideas will beget good ideas, that breaking down the barriers between disciplines will allow innovation and discovery to flourish.  It’s a prime example of the contagious spirit of cross-disciplinary collaboration that can be found throughout the UVA School of Medicine.


BIG aims to take advantage of the far-reaching expertise at UVA to improve science’s understand of the role the immune system plays in maintaining the health of the brain.  Kipnis and his team put a particular emphasis on glia cells that support neurons. 


Kevin D. Lee, PhD, chairman of the Department of Neuroscience explains that “there’s an increased understand of the immune and inflammatory components of disease…We really think that identifying those components of major neurological disorders are going to give us key insights into developing new ways to treat them.”


While the center formed only recently, it’s already accomplishing its goals of fueling collaborations, generating enthusiasm and inspiring “big” ideas.  Kipnis and his team recently marked a major breakthrough.  By using an immune therapy in test mice, they were able to halt the symptoms of Rett syndrome, an autism-spectrum disorder.  


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