Cell-To-Cell Communication in Health and Disease

Michael Risner, PhD Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC)

Co-Principal Investigators

David Calkins, PhD Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC)


The goal of this project is to understand mechanisms of intercellular communication in the context of cell-replacement therapy.

Project Details

Using high-resolution microscopy, we will investigate mitochondrial trafficking through tunneling nanotubes, which are thin protrusions that extend from the plasma membrane, between human embryonic stem cell derived retinal ganglion cells and astrocytes under physiologic (Aim 1) and pathologic conditions (Aim 2). 

We are the first to investigate regulatory mechanisms of intercellular mitochondrial transfer in human-derived cells in the context of developing treatments for glaucoma. 

These studies will explore a potential compensatory pathway for the upregulation of intercellular mitochondrial transfer during stress. We will employ gene-based interventions to reduce and increase intercellular trafficking of mitochondria and determine the influence of each strategy on cell health.