Richard P. Ciavarra

<p>MS, American University<br>PhD, Tufts University School of Medicine</p>

Professor

Microbiology and Molecular Cell Biology


Lewis Hall

757.446.5661

ciavarrp@evms.edu


Courses Taught

Immunology, Molecular Biology, Cell Biology

Biomedical Sciences Program Tracks: Molecular Integrative Biosciences (MIB); Molecular and Cellular Biology

Graduate Education

MS, American University
PhD, Tufts University School of Medicine

Postdoctoral Education

Postdoctoral Training, University of Texas Southwestern Medical School

Research Interests

Dr. Ciavarra and his team investigate broad issues related to the immune system and how it is regulated.  There are several ongoing research projects within this generalized framework. One ongoing project is a collaborative effort with neuroscientist Dr. Larry D. Sanford on how different types of stressors impact the brain’s immune system.  These studies have revealed that stress alone can induce and immune response in the brain (neuroinflammation) and that how the host perceives the stressor (controllable versus uncontrollable electrical footshock) markedly influences this immune response in the brain.  Since stress is a common everyday occurrence, these studies suggest that we may all have an ongoing chronic, low-grade neuroinflammatory response in our brains. This may help explain why neurodegenerative diseases are so common in our modern society.  Currently, we are attempting to characterize stress-induced neuroimmune response in discrete brain regions (hippocampus, amygdala, etc.) associated with the stress response.  In addition, optogenetic approaches are being employed to manipulate (inhibit, stimulate) specific nuclei within the amygdala (basal lateral amygdala) to interrogate its role in regulating stress-induced neuroimmune responses in discrete regions of the brain.  

 

A second related project addresses how the brain’s immune system recognizes and responds to a neuroinvasive viral pathogen.  The brain and spinal cord represent special challenges for the immune system to achieve viral clearance without destroying sensitive and irreplaceable nerve cells. Within this focus, his laboratory is investigating how CNS resident cells such as microglia (brain macrophages) and astrocytes contribute to anti-viral immunity and how these cells interact with other blood cells that infiltrate the brain during viral encephalitis to achieve viral clearance from this organ. In addition, his laboratory also examines how controllable and uncontrollable stress impact these immune events that determine host survival.  The importance of stress on the brain’s immune system is profound because mice subjected to controllable but not uncontrollable stress became extremely sick and did not survive viral encephalitis. It is important to emphasize that in this stress paradigm the amount the physical footshock was identical. Thus, the only difference between these two groups was their perception of the stress. Thus, how they perceived the stress determined whether they would survive the virus infection.  

Presentations and Scholarships

Publications:

Peripheral dendritic cells are essential for both the innate and adaptive antiviral immune response in the CNS.

Regulated expression of CCL21 in the prostate tumor microenvironment inhibits tumor growth and metastases in an orthotopic tumor model.

Role of Peroxynitrite in the Establishment of an Immunosuppressive Prostate Tumor Microenvironment.

View More »

Courses Taught

Immunology, Molecular Biology, Cell Biology

Biomedical Sciences Program Tracks: Molecular Integrative Biosciences (MIB); Molecular and Cellular Biology

Graduate Education

MS, American University
PhD, Tufts University School of Medicine

Postdoctoral Education

Postdoctoral Training, University of Texas Southwestern Medical School

Research Interests

Dr. Ciavarra and his team investigate broad issues related to the immune system and how it is regulated.  There are several ongoing research projects within this generalized framework. One ongoing project is a collaborative effort with neuroscientist Dr. Larry D. Sanford on how different types of stressors impact the brain’s immune system.  These studies have revealed that stress alone can induce and immune response in the brain (neuroinflammation) and that how the host perceives the stressor (controllable versus uncontrollable electrical footshock) markedly influences this immune response in the brain.  Since stress is a common everyday occurrence, these studies suggest that we may all have an ongoing chronic, low-grade neuroinflammatory response in our brains. This may help explain why neurodegenerative diseases are so common in our modern society.  Currently, we are attempting to characterize stress-induced neuroimmune response in discrete brain regions (hippocampus, amygdala, etc.) associated with the stress response.  In addition, optogenetic approaches are being employed to manipulate (inhibit, stimulate) specific nuclei within the amygdala (basal lateral amygdala) to interrogate its role in regulating stress-induced neuroimmune responses in discrete regions of the brain.  

 

A second related project addresses how the brain’s immune system recognizes and responds to a neuroinvasive viral pathogen.  The brain and spinal cord represent special challenges for the immune system to achieve viral clearance without destroying sensitive and irreplaceable nerve cells. Within this focus, his laboratory is investigating how CNS resident cells such as microglia (brain macrophages) and astrocytes contribute to anti-viral immunity and how these cells interact with other blood cells that infiltrate the brain during viral encephalitis to achieve viral clearance from this organ. In addition, his laboratory also examines how controllable and uncontrollable stress impact these immune events that determine host survival.  The importance of stress on the brain’s immune system is profound because mice subjected to controllable but not uncontrollable stress became extremely sick and did not survive viral encephalitis. It is important to emphasize that in this stress paradigm the amount the physical footshock was identical. Thus, the only difference between these two groups was their perception of the stress. Thus, how they perceived the stress determined whether they would survive the virus infection.  

Presentations and Scholarships

Publications:

Peripheral dendritic cells are essential for both the innate and adaptive antiviral immune response in the CNS.

Regulated expression of CCL21 in the prostate tumor microenvironment inhibits tumor growth and metastases in an orthotopic tumor model.

Role of Peroxynitrite in the Establishment of an Immunosuppressive Prostate Tumor Microenvironment.

View More »

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