Arthur Loewy Research Abstract

Basic life processes in the all mammals, including humans, are controlled by the autonomic nervous system. This neural network regulates the blood supply of all tissues of the body and adrenal gland, pancreas, and liver functions. Specific brain sites control this neural network. The research being done in my laboratory analyzes the central brain sites that regulate this network, with a particular focus on blood pressure control and sodium regulation.

Conventional anatomical and imaging methods are not well suited for analyzing brain circuits at the individual nerve cell level because they look at whole groups of neurons, and thus, can not be used to identify and chemical characterize the specific neurons of any brain circuit. To get around this problem, my lab has developed and used the viral transneuronal tracing method which permits a single cell analysis of brain circuits. An attenuated pig herpes virus was found to be particularly useful because when injected into a particular site, like an autonomic ganglion, after several days it produces a highly specific infection in the spinal cord and then, at a slightly later time, the virus infects specific functionally related groups of nerve cells in the brain of laboratory rodents. Since the infections remain weak, the central neurons along with the putative neurotransmitters and receptors can be detected using immnohistochemical methods.

Our current research studies are focused on central sodium regulation.