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Suzanne Tharin, MD PhD joined the faculty at Stanford University in 2012 as an Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery. Following her undergraduate degree in Physiology and a Master’s degree in Anatomy and Cell Biology at the University of Toronto, Dr. Tharin completed a PhD in Genetics at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and SUNY Stony Brook. She received her MD from Columbia University and then completed her neurosurgery residency at the Brigham and Women's Hospital/Children’s Hospital Boston/Harvard Medical School program. She subsequently completed a clinical fellowship in complex spine surgery at the Cleveland Clinic. Her research program encompasses the molecular controls over cortical neuronal development, spinal cord injury, and regenerative strategies for spinal cord repair, including stem cell-based strategies. As a practicing neurosurgeon at the Palo Alto VA and Stanford University Hospital, Dr. Tharin is dedicated to translating an understanding of neural development into regenerative strategies for the treatment of spinal cord injury.
The long-term goal of the research in my lab is the repair of damaged corticospinal circuitry. Attempts at therapeutic regeneration are limited both by the current understanding of the mechanisms that underlie the sequential generation and development of corticospinal motor neurons (CSMN) and by the current understanding of the events occurring within CSMN in the setting of spinal cord injury. A thorough understanding of the molecular controls over CSMN development might enable enhancement of corticospinal regeneration. MicroRNAs are small, non-coding RNAs that have recently been identified to regulate the expression of entire “suites” of genes during the development of species as diverse as plants, worms, and humans. The work in my lab seeks to identify microRNA controls over the CSMN development and over CSMN response to spinal cord injury. microRNA CONTROLS OVER CORTICOSPINAL MOTOR NEURON DEVELOPMENT: In collaboration with my postdoctoral mentor, Dr. Jeffrey Macklis, I have characterized differential miRNA expression in CSMN vs. callosal projection neurons (CPN) during their early differentiation. We identified a number of candidate microRNAs that may play roles in shaping CSMN and CPN development. In my lab, we are testing the ability of these microRNAs to direct CSMN development. We are also identifying targets of differentially regulated miRNAs in CSMN. microRNA CONTROLS OVER CSMN RESPONSE TO SPINAL CORD INJURY: This work seeks to identify and investigate microRNAs differentially expressed in CSMN in the setting of acute spinal cord injury. In addition, building upon candidate microRNAs identified as controls over CSMN development, my group will also specifically investigate their roles in the response of CSMN to acute spinal cord injury, and their possible roles in recovery.I encourage medical and undergraduate students to contact me if they are interested in being part of my lab. This is an opportunity to participate from the start in some exciting basic and translational research in a field still in its infancy. For undergraduates considering medical school, medical students considering neurosurgery, or lab members simply wishing to understand the clinical motivation of my research, there may also be opportunities for members of my group to shadow me in my clinical work at the Palo Alto VA.