Welcome new faculty

James Frank, Ph.D., Assistant Professor

James Frank, Ph.D. joined the Department of Chemical Physiology and Biochemistry as Assistant Professor on July 1, 2021. The Frank lab develops light-sensitive small molecule probes to manipulate neurons with increased spatiotemporal precision. In particular, we focus on developing photo-switchable and photo-caged ligands which permit remote control over cannabinoid receptor (CBR) activity. We use these tools to understand the mechanisms by which cannabinoid signaling mediates the secretion of neurotransmitters and hormones from excitable cells, and how these concerted events drive behavior and energy homeostasis in vivo.

Highlighted Publication

Qiu, J.Stincic, T.L.Bosch, M.A.Connors, A.M., Kaech Petrie, S. Rønnekleiv, O.K.Kelly, M.J. Deletion of Stim1 in hypothalamic arcuate nucleus Kiss1 neurons potentiates synchronous GCaMP activity and protects against diet-induced obesityJournal of Neuroscience

Hypothalamic arcuate kisspeptin neurons (Kiss1ARH) are essential for stimulating the pulsatile release of gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) from the hypothalamus and subsequently luteinizing hormone from the pituitary to maintain fertility. However, Kiss1ARH neurons appear to be a key player in coordinating energy balance with reproduction. Using calcium imaging and electrophysiological techniques, Qiu and colleagues elucidated the role of calcium channels and an associated calcium-sensing regulatory protein (called STIM1) in generating synchronous firing of kisspeptin neurons for driving the pulsatile release of GnRH. They deleted STIM1 in Kiss1ARH neurons and found that it significantly increased the excitability of Kiss1ARH neurons and protected ovariectomized female mice from developing obesity and glucose intolerance with high-fat dieting.

Discovery raises possibility of new medication for Alzheimer's, Parkinson's

Drs. Sky Ferrara and Tom Scanlan in the Department of Chemical Physiology and Biochemistry have for the first time demonstrated it's possible to use a synthetic thyroid hormone to regulate a gene implicated in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and multiple sclerosis. Read about the discovery HERE.


Congratulations to Drs. Mike Andresen, Ginny Brooks, and Oline Ronnekleiv on being awarded Professor Emeritus in recognition for their distinguished service to OHSU and science.