FacultySarah Pixley, Ph.D., Associate Professor
Department of Cell and Cancer Biology
The neurons that line part of the nose and detect smells (the olfactory neurons) are produced in large numbers throughout life. This is not the case in the brain and spinal cord; there neurogenesis is rare in the adult. My laboratory examines growth factors and drugs that regulate the nasal (olfactory) neurogenesis. We propose that factors that regulate olfactory neurogenesis will also regulate neurogenesis in the brain and spinal cord. Therefore, the nose neurons, which can be safely biopsied and studied in adult humans, could potentially serve as an experimental "window on the brain". We use cell culture and animal experiments and, more recently, some human work, to test theories about the regulation of olfactory stem cell neurogenesis and differentiation into neurons. We are currently working with a psychiatrist, Dr. Henry Nasrallah, to investigate how medications that are used to treat patients with depression and psychosis (including but not limited to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder) influence olfactory neurogenesis.