Dr. Mari Dezawa invited Martha C. Bohn, PhD and Aleksandra Glavaski, PhD to visit her lab in Japan to learn new techniques for turning bone
marrow into nerve cells. This technique may be a novel future approach for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. Bohn and Glavaski
are studying the potential of this approach for Parkinson's disease.
(photo left) Dr. Mari Dezawa (right) at the University of Tohoku, Sendai, Japan, discusses the preparation of neural stem cells from bone marrow in her laboratory with Aleksandra Glavaski, PhD and Dr. Dai Matsuse.
(photo right) Martha C. Bohn, PhD receives a tribute from Dr. Mari Dezawa after her seminar at the University of Tohoku.
The following is an interview Glavaski gave about the experience.
What took you to Japan?
AG: Dr. Dezawa invited my mentor, Dr. Martha Bohn, and me to visit her lab in Japan to learn some new techniques for making bone marrow
into nerve cells. This technique may be a novel approach for the clinic one day for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.
How did that invitation come about?
AG: Last March, Dezawa was the speaker for our Chicago Neural Repair Club. We had the opportunity to meet with her, and we exchanged our
ideas on the project. She was interested in collaborating, and she was excited about our data using human bone marrow-derived cells that we
had obtained from SanBio, Inc., a biotech company in California. Dr. Dezawa is a co-founder of SanBio.
Are you collaborating on a project?
AG: Yes, we are now collaborating with Dr. Dezawa’s lab, and she is a consultant on our NIH grant application.
So you went to take a look at the lab?
AG: We went more to have “hands on” experience on the methodology they use.
Can you explain a little bit of what you were learning while you were there?
AG: We learned how to isolate rodent mesenchymal stem cells from bone marrow, and how to put a gene into the cells that promotes their
developing into nerve cells. They also treated the cells with different growth factors in order to make specific kinds of neurons that have
potential for Parkinson’s disease.
Is there anything else you worked on during your time in the lab?
AG: We also learned how to make neurospheres from these stem cells.
What’s a neurosphere?
AG: It’s a ball of stem cells that can make different kinds of neural cells.
Now that you can make these, how does this impact your lab?
AG: This promises to be a very novel approach for Parkinson’s disease. We expect that neurospheres will make nerve cells that can improve
function. We will test this hypothesis in rat and mouse models of the disease.
Do you go to different labs a lot?
AG: I was a postdoctoral fellow in Sweden before I came to the research center. However, this was my first visit to Asia. Besides
experiencing a different lab, it was interesting to meet scientists from Japan.
Did you spend the entire two weeks in the lab, or did you get out a little bit to see some of the country?
AG: During the week, we worked long hours. They’re not so busy in the morning, but they start working harder after lunch and sometimes work
until midnight. We usually worked until 8 p.m. and then went to dinner with Dr. Dezawa and her lab group.
We visited Kyoto one weekend and enjoyed numerous Japanese gardens, temples and palaces. It was a memorable visit. We spent the second
weekend in a very old Japanese style inn called a ryokan up in the mountains in a region with lots of hot springs. It was rooted in
tradition and very interesting. On the last day, Dr. Dezawa took us to Matsushima where we took a delightful boat ride among thousands of
small islands and had a sushi lunch.
Aleksandra Glavaski, PhD is currently a 6th year postdoctoral fellow in the Bohn laboratory at Children’s Memorial Research Center.