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Vollum Institute at OHSU (OHSU/Kristyna Wentz-Graff)

The Vollum Institute is a privately endowed research institute at Oregon Health & Science University dedicated to basic research that will lead to new treatments for neurological and psychiatric diseases. Vollum scientists have broad-ranging interests that coalesce around molecular neurobiology and cellular physiology. Their work has transformed the field of neuroscience and, in particular, has provided important advances in the study of synaptic transmission, neuronal development, neurotransmitter transporters, ion channels and the neurobiology of disease.
Learn more about the Vollum's mission

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Monk unravels the mysteries of myelination

Kelly Monk at the entrance of the Vollum Institute

“It’s putting the pieces of the puzzle together. How your discovery fits into what came before. And how each discovery not only solves part of the puzzle but also opens up 20 new doors that you never would have thought about.”
—Kelly Monk, PhD

Vollum Institute co-director and senior scientist, Kelly Monk, Ph.D., was recently featured in the OHSU Foundation’s Onward Campaign. Her lab explores how the signals between glial cells and axons regulate myelination, and how myelin is maintained once it is formed. In the case of injury or disease, her team wants to learn whether the same developmental pathways that regulate myelination also regulate remyelination, or if additional pathways are necessary.
Read the interview with Kelly Monk at Onward OHSU

Swetha Murthy joins the Vollum Institute

Swetha Murthy, PhD

The Vollum Institute extends a warm welcome to Assistant Scientist Swetha Murthy, Ph.D., who joined us in early December. Dr. Murthy’s research is centered on understanding the molecular details of mechanotransduction — how cells sense mechanical force and convert those stimuli into biological signals. She is a leader in the identification and characterization of new mechanosensitive ion channels in species as diverse as humans and Venus flytraps. Her research aims to understand how these channels sense force, are gated, and in turn play roles in pain sensation, tissue contraction and blood pressure regulation. Dr. Murthy joins us from The Scripps Research Institute where she trained as a postdoctoral fellow with Ardem Patapoutian.

Congratulations to Kathleen Beeson!

Her beautiful image of cerebellar Purkinje cells and the climbing fibers that innervate them is featured on the cover of the March 18 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience. Kathleen is a Ph.D. candidate in the Neuroscience Graduate Program.

Research highlights

α2δ-2 protein controls structure and function at the cerebellar climbing fiber synapse
Beeson KA, Beeson R, Westbrook GL, Schnell E
Journal of Neuroscience 2020 Mar 18; 40(12):2403-2415

Mechanotransduction-dependent control of stereocilia dimensions and row identity in inner hair cells
Krey JF, Chatterjee P, Dumont RA, O'Sullivan M, Choi D, Bird JE, Barr-Gillespie PG
Current Biology 2020 Feb 3; 30(3):442-454.e7

Single-cell proteomics reveals changes in expression during hair-cell development
Zhu Y, Scheibinger M, Ellwanger DC, Krey JF, Choi D, Kelly RT, Heller S, Barr-Gillespie PG
Elife 2019 Nov 4; 8:e50777

Visualizing endogenous opioid receptors in living neurons using ligand-directed chemistry
Arttamangkul S, Plazek A, Platt EJ, Jin H, Murray TF, Birdsong W, Rice KC, Farrens D, Williams JT
Elife 2019 Oct 7; 8:e49319

View all

Vollum researchers in the news

Electron microscopy shows stair-stepping form of mature cochlear hair bundles

New research from the Barr-Gillespie lab reveals a key insight into the development of hair bundles, the intricately complex assemblies in the inner ear responsible for hearing. 

In the study published online January 2 in the journal Current Biology, first author Jocelyn Krey, Ph.D., and collaborators discovered the development of hair bundles occurs in a kind of feedback loop in which form follows function and function drives form. Form and function are mutually reinforcing.
Learn more at OHSU News
Read the PubMed abstract

3D-printed model of the extracellular domains of an NMDA receptor

In collaboration with the Gouaux lab, Brian Jones in the Westbrook lab developed a mouse model of anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis using active immunization with intact native-like NMDARs embedded in liposomes. The mice showed a behavioral and tissue phenotype that mimicked the disease as chronicled by an afflicted patient in the book, Brain on Fire. The use of the holoprotein as immunogen suggests that the disease-inducing epitope is conformationally restricted, something we hope to test in the mice and in human cases. The research was published July 10 in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
Learn more at OHSU News
Read the PubMed abstract

Fbxw7 mutant Schwann cells

Oligodendrocytes myelinate multiple axons in the central nervous system, while in the peripheral nervous system, Schwann cells myelinate a single axon. Why are the myelinating potentials of these glia so fundamentally different? New data from the Monk Lab reveal unexpected plasticity in the myelinating potential of Schwann cells, which may have important implications for our understanding of myelination and myelin repair in both systems. The research was published July 5 in the journal Nature Communications.
Learn more at OHSU News
Read the PubMed abstract

Recognition for our early career awardees

Graduate students and postdoctoral fellows are usually supported by research grants to individual faculty or by institutional training grants from the NIH. However, a sought-after perk for trainees is to obtain an individual fellowship from federal sources or foundations. Such awards are an honor and also provide important financial support for the trainee and their lab. Graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in the Vollum Institute have been remarkably successful in obtaining these awards over the past few years. This is a credit to the quality of the trainees and the support the receive from their mentors. Congratulations to all.

Congratulations to our graduate researchers in the Vollum/OHSU Neuroscience Graduate Program who received ARCS Foundation Scholar Awards from the ARCS Oregon Chapter! The NGP first-year scholars for 2019 are Sweta AdhikaryAmelia CulpMakayla Freitas and Sierra Smith.

Learn more about these scholars and the ARCS Foundation Oregon

Congratulations to the Neuroscience Graduate Program and Vollum graduate researchers — Sweta Adhikary, Kylie McPherson, Taylor Mighell and Sigrid Noreng — who received 2019 N.L. Tartar Trust Fellowships. The $2,000 grants are awarded annually by the OHSU School of Medicine as a means to support research endeavors and career development. Keep up the great work!

Sarah Clark, Ph.D., Gouaux Lab
NIDCD F32 Fellowship: "Elucidating the architecture and composition of the hair cell mechanotransduction complex"

Alec Condon, Williams Lab
NIDA F31 Predoctoral Fellowship: "Desensitization and recovery of D2 autoreceptors"

Farzad Jalali-Yazdi, Ph.D., Gouaux Lab
NIMH F32 Fellowship: "Elucidating the structural mechanism of NMDA receptor modulation by cryo-electon microscopy"

Bart Jongbloets, Ph.D., Mao Lab
Dutch Research Council (NWO) Veni Grant: "Uncovering dopamine signaling in our brain"

Yunsik Kang, Ph.D., Freeman Lab
Damon Runyon Cancer Research Fellowship: "Molecular mechanisms regulating phagaocytosis of neurons"

Patrick Kerstein, Ph.D., Wright Lab
NEI F32 Fellowship: "Gbx2 regulates the development of an atypical amacrine cell"

Katy Lehmann, Freeman Lab
National Science Foundation, Graduate Research Fellowship

Brendan Lujan, Ph.D., von Gersdorff Lab
NIDCD F32 Fellowship: "Retrograde signaling and the modulation of short-term plasticity at an auditory synapse"

Dan Miller, Wright Lab
NINDS F31 Predoctoral Fellowship: "Mechanism of dystroglycan function at inhibitory synapses"

Rory Morgan, Ph.D., Monk Lab
Collins Medical Trust: "Defining the roles of adhesion G protein-coupled receptors (aGPCRs) in myelin formation and homeostasis using reverse genetic and chemical screens in zebrafish"

John Sinnamon, Ph.D., Mandel Lab
Rett Syndrome Research Trust Award: "Using site-directed RNA editing to repair Rett Syndrome mutations in vivo"