The overarching questions in the Milligan laboratory are: What happens when neurons become dysfunctional and eventually degenerate? How do surrounding cells respond and how does this response promote or inhibit further neuronal function and pathology? These questions are relevant to development of the nervous system as well as to the aging and diseased CNS. The answers to the questions are critical for developing the foundation on which effective therapeutic strategies to address neurodegenerative diseases will be developed. My research career began by being involved in projects designed to develop monoclonal antibodies for the treatment of cancer. My graduate career included training in immunology and inflammation, pharmacology, as well as development of the nervous system. My thesis project focused on microglial responses to cell death in development and following injury in both developing and adult visual systems. The result of this project identified different phenotypes of microglia; they also contributed to my interest in understanding the molecular and biochemical mechanisms that mediate neuronal cell death in development and neurodegenerative diseases that I began to study as a postdoctoral fellow.
Over the past 20 years, my research has focused on intra- and inter-cellular mechanisms mediating motoneuron survival or death. My laboratory has experience with neuronal and glial cell cultures and analysis of oxidative stress, neurodegenerative disease pathology and the mutant SOD1G93A mouse model of ALS. The Milligan lab is also involved in several studies to identify biomarkers of ALS and have recently identified the Interleukin-6 receptor coding change Asp358Ala as a potential disease modifier in ALS. Common approaches include molecular analysis including RNASeq, recombinant protein production, western blot analysis, immunohistochemistry, histology, ELISA, human material handling and storage, animal behavior. My research history and approaches owe substantially to the interdisciplinary nature of her graduate training. This foundation is essential to identification and utilization of novel results, techniques, and theories that move research forward. My laboratory has been continuously funded since its inception.
Educational Program Involvement
Graduate Programs in Neuroscience
Program Research Interest: Addiction and Substance Abuse, Behavioral and Systems Neurobiology, Development and Plasticity, Molecular Neurobiology, Neurological Disease and Aging, Neuropharmacology, Sensory Neurobiology
Molecular Genetics and Genomics PhD
Program Research Interest: Identification of genetic variants that contribute to complex disease, Gene-environment interactions, Epigenetics, Genetic epidemiology, Bioinformatics