Michael Koval, Ph.D., is Professor of Medicine and Cell Biology at Emory University. He has a longstanding interest in studying the molecular machinery that regulates the trafficking and assembly of connexins into gap junctions, including the first identification of ERp29 as a component of the connexin quality control pathway. His laboratory also works on defining roles for pannexins in regulating vascular barrier function. A continuing line of research is to define how gap junctions, pannexins and tight junctions are coordinately regulated and to determine how junction proteins organize into protein complexes that act as signaling hubs, primarily in the context of diseases such as acute respiratory distress syndrome, cystic fibrosis and sepsis.
Lilian Plotkin, Ph.D., is a Professor at the Department of Anatomy, Cell Biology & Physiology, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis. She obtained her Ph.D. in Immunology at the Universidad Nacional de Buenos Aires, Argentina. Plotkin performed postdoctoral training from 1998 to 2002 at the Endocrinology Division and the Center for Osteoporosis and Metabolic Bone Diseases, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences where her work revealed non-traditional roles of bisphosphonates in promoting osteoblast and osteocyte survival through Cx43 hemichannel activation. She subsequently became faculty there until 2008 when she moved to the Indiana University School of Medicine. Plotkin’s research focuses on the role of connexins and pannexins as regulators of intracellular signaling in bone, and the consequences of genetic modifications associated with cognitive disorders on the musculoskeletal system. In addition, she investigates cellular and molecular mechanisms leading to skeletal sexual dimorphism using novel animal models.
Arantxa Tabernero, Ph.D., is a Professor at the Instituto de Neurociencias de Castilla y León, Universidad de Salamanca, Spain. Examining the relationship between connexin43 and glioma cell proliferation, the Tabernero group have demonstrated connexin43 inhibits oncogenic Src activity. They have successfully translated this basic finding through design of a connexin43 mimetic peptide (TAT-Cx43266-283) that recapitulates Src inhibition in glioblastoma models. TAT-Cx43266-283 exerts anti-tumoral effects consistent across several preclinical models of glioblastoma, including freshly removed surgical specimens from patients, and peptide-treated glioblastoma-bearing mice survive longer. Importantly, unlike traditional Src inhibitors, TAT-Cx43266-283 is specific for the glioblastoma cancer stem cell subpopulation with no effects on normal brain cells. Connexin43 plays a complex role in cancer, and Tabernero’s approach of interrogating its function through specific targeting of pathways, including Src inhibition, is providing critical insight in the development of effective therapeutic tools.
Roger Thompson, Ph.D.,is a Professor at the Hotchkiss Brain Institute at the University of Calgary. His research focusses on pannexin-1 biology as it relates to stroke, cognitive decline and physiological brain functions. He has a bachelors degree from Queen's University, a Ph.D. from McMaster University, and postdoctoral experience from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, University of British Columbia, and has been researching brain pathologies for over 20 years. His active research program focuses on identifying new molecular pathways and designing custom molecules to protect brain cells during disease.