Dr. Steffany Bennett is a lipid biochemist and systems neurobiologist working to block the pathological changes in brain lipid metabolism that precipitate pediatric and geriatric neurodegenerative disease. She received her Ph.D in Biochemistry at the University of Ottawa and post-doctoral training at the W. Alton Cell Science Centre and Harvard Medical School. She is a Full Professor and University Research Chair in the Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology, and Immunology, University of Ottawa. Her team is developing and applying methodologies in super-resolution imaging (stimulated emission depletion STED), liquid chromatography electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (LC-ESI-MS), and bioinformatics to advance the emerging field of neurolipidomics. Specifically, she focuses on identifying (a) circulating phospholipids and glycolipids at the molecular level that predict disease conversion, (b) how changes in these structural and second messenger lipids signal neurodegeneration, and (c) whether these changes can be targeted to resist neurodegenerative disease in the central nervous system. As part of this lipidomics approach, her team explores how changes in membrane composition alter function of integral membrane connexin and pannexin channels in neurons, glia, and neural/glia progenitor populations with the overarching goal of protecting neurons from excitotoxic insult and enhancing effective neuro- and glial regeneration.
Dr Bennett's Neural Regeneration Laboratory focuses on two complementary research goals. We study the (a) regulation of neural stem cell and progenitor fate by connexin protein family members influencing neuroregeneration and (b) the role of glycerophospholipid neuromodulators in progressive neuronal dysfunction characterizing neurodegenerative disease. The overarching goals are to reduce the rate of neuronal loss associated with brain injury and facilitate cell replacement by mobilizing endogenous progenitor cell populations.
The purpose of our lab’s research is to develop new therapies for neurodegenerative disease. Research focuses on discovery (what is going wrong at the level of membrane?), target (how do these lipid changes affect integral membrane protein function?), diagnostics (are circulating lipids in patients biomarkers of neurodegenerative disease progression?) and therapeutics (can existing drugs and new plant-derived compounds be repurposed to treat neurodegenerative disease?).