Dr. Ruth Slack and her research group’s long term goals are to promote the regeneration of the damaged brain after stroke or in neurodegenerative diseases. She and her team have shown that proteins that regulate cell replication can also play important roles in the regulation of neural stem cell self renewal and long term maintenance in the embryonic and adult brain. Dr. Slack’s group has also shown that mitochondrial dynamics and function have a major impact on adult stem cells and their differentiation, thus changes in metabolism or defects in mitochondrial function in the context of neurodegenerative diseases may have a major impact on neurogenesis, regeneration and neurological function. By exploiting new knowledge of these key regulatory pathways, they plan to activate the neuronal precursor and stem cell pools in order to facilitate regeneration of the damaged brain.
Acute brain injury is a major cause of mortality and permanent disability in Canada especially in people under the age of 34. Presently, $3 billion are spent every year on approximately 200,000 Canadians living with stroke-related disabilities. With rising statistics every year, it is understandable that developing effective treatment strategies to facilitate functional recovery after acute brain injury is a health priority.
Recognized by her peers for the quality and potential impact of her work, Ruth Slack endeavours to find such strategies.
"The damage incurred by both traumatic brain injury and stroke occur by similar mechanisms involving two waves of cell death," explains Dr. Slack. "First, there is a rapid irreversible mode of cell death causing the death or decay of tissue, especially due to inadequate blood supply. Secondly, there is a delayed mode of cell death that takes two to four days to occur through the process of apoptosis."
Dr. Slack's work examines the molecular mechanisms regulating neurogenesis, and it has far reaching implications both in the field of basic developmental biology, and in stem cell research for the development of cell replacement therapies following brain injury. Understanding such mechanisms is essential for the development of stem cell based therapies to repair the injured nervous system. She is also working on identifying key molecular targets regulating neuronal cell death after injury. This type of research is crucial for the development of effective therapies for the treatment of acute brain injury.
Dr. Slack will address the possibility of regeneration following damage caused by tissue loss immediately upon impact or infarction. She hopes to exploit the knowledge she gains to facilitate neuronal regeneration after injury.
Dr. Slack is an associate professor at the University of Ottawa and has been cross-appointed to the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine since 1997. She is an active member of the Canadian Stroke and Stem Cell Networks. Publishing extensively in top-tier journals, Slack has also significantly contributed to graduate courses and research training for honours and graduate students alike. She is considered one of the most promising young neuroscientists in Canada and is well on her way to being internationally recognized for her work in the highly competitive fields of neurogenetic molecular mechanisms and the mechanisms of neuronal cell death.