New UVa Medical Center to Take 'BIG' Strides

UVa has a new medical research center that is 'BIG'. 'BIG' stands for the Brain Immunology and Glia Center. Researchers from many different medical disciplines are coming together to unlock the secrets to many complex diseases and disorders that affect many of us.

Neuroimmunology is a word that you don't use in everyday conversations but in the field of medicine it's up and coming.

Kevin Lee, PhD, is a professor and the chair of the department of neuroscience at UVa. He said, "Right now really, the growth area is really in understanding how neuroimmunology contributes or might regulate the progression of these diseases."

At 'BIG', researchers will study the nervous and the immune systems to try and understand diseases like autism, multiple sclerosis, brain tumors, and Alzheimer's. Lee said, "Unless you can understand the underlying mechanisms of these types of diseases and disorders... There's no real way to build a rational therapy for them and that's what we are trying to do."

Glia cells are a type of brain cell and at 'BIG' they are a big focus of research. They help in keeping the brain healthy but they aren't always good. Lee said, "Findings are suggesting to us that these glia cells and interactions of the immune system with the glia cells play critical roles in a variety of central nervous system disorders. "

There aren't many centers like 'BIG' and it's unique in how it puts different types of scientists into one center. Lee said UVa has never taken advantage of the schools knowledge in this way, "We've traditionally had a lot of expertise her at the university in immunology and in neurosciences but we really haven't married the topics like we could."

The future of 'BIG' is to break down walls of understand and to learn how to cure life changing illnesses.

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