Fighting For | October 15, 2020
When Evan Nichols ’19 was 4 years old, his brother, Ben, suffered a brachial plexus injury at birth, which severed the connection between sensory and motor neurons and the spine. Nichols’ parents explained that because the neurons were no longer attached to the spinal cord, Ben would likely have limited use of his left arm. “But why can’t they just go back in?” an innocent Evan asked, not knowing the question would someday spur innovative research.
During his sophomore year at Notre Dame, Nichols joined the lab of Cody Smith, the Elizabeth and Michael Gallagher Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences and a member of the Center for Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine. Smith is an expert in neural development and regeneration whose lab is largely focused on building a blueprint of a healthy nervous system.
As he explains it, before you can understand what is going wrong in a system, you need to understand what it looks like when things go right. Though many researchers study specific abnormalities that may contribute to diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, Smith contends scientists still lack a comprehensive understanding of how the nervous system forms or maintains its health. By understanding how healthy cells develop, organize and interact to create robust systems, Smith is convinced it will be easier to see why things go awry and know how to fix them.
Read more here.