January 20, 2011
WOOSTER, Ohio — Catherine Fenster, assistant professor of biology at The College of Wooster, will present "Parallels Between Immune and Nervous System Function — An Unexpected Research Trajectory" at the first Faculty at Large lecture of the spring semester on Tuesday, Feb. 15. The lecture, which is free and open to the public, begins at 11 a.m. in Lean Lecture Room of Wishart Hall (303 E. University St.).
Fenster will discuss recent studies of the immune and nervous systems, which indicate that the mechanisms through which cells of these two systems develop, communicate, and adapt exhibit many parallels, even though they have very different functional roles. For example, molecules called cytokines are known to regulate immune system development and inflammatory responses — although immune system cells are traditionally recognized as the primary source of cytokines, neurons also can release certain types of cytokines. There is now strong evidence that cytokines, in addition to having immunomodulatory effects, play important roles in nervous system function and development. Moreover, cytokines have been implicated in a variety of disorders affecting the central nervous system including Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and schizophrenia.
“A recent focus of my research has been to characterize the functional properties of a brain-specific cytokine, called neuronal interleukin-16 (NIL-16),” said Fenster. “We have found the NIL-16 may influence neuron function in ways similar to that of a closely related molecule found in white blood cells, called pro-interleukin-16. In recently published articles in Brain Research and Neuroscience Letters, we provided evidence that NIL-16 functions to regulate neuronal excitability, gene expression, and neuronal growth. The lecture will address how my initial interest in ion channels — small ion conducting holes on the surface neurons (and other cells) that underlie neuronal signaling — unexpectedly led to a project linking immune and nervous system function.”
Fenster has been a member of the faculty at Wooster since 2005. She is also currently chair of the pre-health advising committee and part of the Neuroscience program. She received a B.S. from Furman University (1993) and a Ph.D. (1999) in neurobiology from the University of Alabama in Birmingham (UAB). Additional research interests involve ion channel function, physiological and behavioral effects of nicotine and nicotine withdrawal, and developmental factors that affect neuronal excitability.
Additional information is available by phone (330-263-2576) or e-mail.
1189 Beall Avenue, Wooster, Ohio 44691. (330) 263-2000
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