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    Olalekan M. Ogundele launches career with IBRO/ISN Research Fellowship

    Pictured above: Olalekan M. Ogundele (center) with his National University of La Plata (Argentina) research colleagues.

    Since receiving an IBRO Africa Regional Committee (IBRO-ARC) bursary to go to Louisiana State University in 2014, Olalekan M. Ogundele from the University of Ilorin in Nigeria has established a successful career of engaging research, training, publication, and even a bit of global advocacy as part of IBRO's virtual March for Science this year. In 2016, he was awarded an IBRO/International Society for Neurochemistry (ISN) Research Fellowship to work at Louisiana State University (USA) and the National University of La Plata (Argentina). He has now completed the second half of his fellowship, published in several journals - including IBRO’s flagship journal Neuroscience - and was recently appointed as a tenure track Assistant Professor in the Department of Comparative Biomedical Sciences at Louisiana State University. Ogundele is a prime example of how IBRO and its partners can help support neuroscientists with their own careers and, through knowledge exchange and advanced training, to further develop the field of neuroscience around the world. Ogundele shares his fellowship experience below.

    Olalekan M. Ogundele, Ph.D. 

    I obtained my IBRO/ISN Research Fellowship in 2016 to pursue research and training at both Louisiana State University (LSU) in the United States and the National University of La Plata in Argentina. The combination of expertise and experience from these two institutions and countries granted me an invaluable opportunity to advance my research, career and collaborations. After having successfully completed my fellowship work, I now plan to begin the next phase of my career as an Assistant Professor at LSU, providing a smooth transition from being a postdoctoral fellow to a permanent member of academia. I am very grateful for IBRO/ISN support and happy to report on my fellowship experience below.

    The first half of my fellowship focused mostly on acquiring skills in the Laboratory of Pathophysiology and Neural Systems under Dr. Joseph Francis and Dr. Charles Lee at Louisiana State University. I was able to combine retrograde anatomical tracing, gene expression, whole-cell patch clamping (electrophysiology), in vivo electrophysiology and confocal and electron microscopy into my research. Specifically, this involved adenoviral gene expression and Cre-driven gene deletion targeted at regulating downstream molecules implicated in the progression of inflammation and synaptic dysfunction in aged rodents. I successfully conducted the deletion of specific pro-inflammatory receptors in transgenic mice by stereosurgically delivering control and Cre- expressing adenoviral constructs.

    My work sought to investigate the role of pro-inflammatory receptors in the alteration of activity dependent synaptic function through depletion of neurotropins insulin-like growth factor 1. Using whole- cell patch clamping technique, we examined the significance of early onset IGF-1R depletion in the cause and progression of sympathoexcitation in the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus and rostral ventrolateral medulla.

    The outcome of the study showed that IGF-1R depletion was associated with the presence of repetitive evoked action potential and high threshold inward excitatory post- synaptic currents (EPSCs). An interesting part of my study showed that tissue specific deletion of pro-inflammatory receptors in the brain slows down the progression of inflammation and synaptic dysfunction.

    In the second half of my training at the National University of La Plata in Argentina, I worked with Dr. Rodolfo Goya and engaged in the design of viral constructs for over expression of IGF-1R in specific brain areas. This enabled me to expand the scope of my research fellowship towards implementing therapeutic gene transfection in inflammation, aging and degeneration.

    I collected brain samples from some of the experimental animals which I took with me to the US host laboratory in order to perform a series of measurements that cannot be done at the Argentine institution (electron microscopy and western blotting, among others). I processed the remainder of the old brains at the Argentine laboratory where I did quantitative morphometry for dendritic spine count in branching in the hippocampus.

    While in Argentina, I also trained a group of PhD students on basic electrophysiological techniques in vivo, using some small instruments that I took from the US laboratory. In return, I received training in the preparation and culture of rat bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (MSC). The aim of that training was to set up those techniques at the US laboratory where there is a significant interest in starting a collaborative research effort on the use of MSC to implement regenerative medicine in the hypothalamus of aging rats.

    As a result of my research fellowship work, I was able to produce three first-author and one co-author papers, as well as two papers currently under review.* The first paper, published in The Anatomical Record, addresses the significance of cathecolaminergic neurons in PVN circuit, and their connections to the rostral ventrolateral medulla, and reuniens thalamic nuclei. The second paper, published in the Journal of Neurochemistry, describes an age-dependent change in IGF-1R expression in the PVN of transgenic hypertensive rats. Specifically, the paper outlines the significance of IGF-R in the modulation of CaMKIIα-mediated synaptic plasticity and inflammatory response in the PVN. The third paper is published in IBRO Neuroscience and describes the role of IGF-1R-CaMKIIα signaling in the modulation of synaptic plasticity, and TLR4-depednet inflammatory response in chronic stress. In addition, Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience is reviewing for publication another first author paper, in collaboration with Dr. Charles Lee at LSU, entitled “IGF-1R may regulate KCa2.2 through MAPK/CaMKIIα cross-talk in the aging cortex and hippocampus.”

    Based on my work in Argentina, I have co-authored one published paper and one paper that is under review. The published study appeared in NeuroReport and addresses the significance of prolonged training in a Barnes Maze on hippocampal spine morphology, and habituation in subsequent tests. The paper under review in the Journal of Gerontology, describes the effect of long-term IGF-I therapy on the transcriptome profile in the hippocampus of aging rats as compared with placebo vector-injected old counterparts. Our research showed the treatment improved cognitive performance in the old animals and in parallel up or down regulated a number of specific genes related to neurogenesis, synaptogenesis, apoptosis and microglial immunoreactivity.

    I have been asked several times to give my feedback on IBRO and its grant programs, and I have had nothing short of “grace” and “enlightening” to say. A research fellowship is not only important but, as an African (Nigerian), it is a great investment that aspiring African neuroscientists must take the utmost advantage of to develop their scientific careers. Allowing access to some of the best facilities and mentors around the world is what IBRO provides, and this is an essential component to assisting all scientists from developing countries in advancing their skills, careers, support networks and opportunities to participate in and contribute to global neuroscience research.

    As I assume my position as Assistant Professor this July at LSU, I hope to continue to build on the great success that I have achieved through the IBRO/ISN Fellowship and to receive ongoing support and mentorship from IBRO on how to foster collaborations with other scientists in Africa and around the world. Finally, I would like to thank both IBRO and ISN for the opportunity to engage in this important career advancement training. I can say emphatically that I have benefited a great deal from their support. Without it, I would not have been able to gain international experience in the US and Argentina or launch my career as a principal investigator in synapse biology.

    Olalekan M. Ogundele 

    To learn more about the IBRO/ISN Research Fellowship Program and APPLY NOW until 18 June 2017 for 2018 fellowships, CLICK HERE.

    *References to published papers

    - Ogundele OM, Ebenezer PJ, Lee CC, Francis J. Stress altered synaptic plasticity and DAMP signaling in the hippocampus-PFC axis; elucidating the significance of IGF-1/IGF-1R/CaMKIIα expression in neural changes associated with a prolonged exposure therapy. Neuroscience. 2017 Apr 21. pii: S0306-4522(17)30247-6. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2017.04.008. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 28438613.

    - Uriarte M, Ogundele OM, Pardo J (2017a). Long lasting training in the Barnes maze prompts hippocampal spinogenesis and habituation in rats. NeuroReport. 2017 Apr 12;28(6):307-312. PMID: 28225479.

    - Ogundele OM, Lee CC, Francis J (2016a). Thalamic dopaminergic neurons projects to the paraventricular nucleus-rostral ventrolateral medulla/C1 neural circuit. Anat Rec (Hoboken). PMID:27981779.

    - Ogundele OM, Lee CC, Francis J (2016b). Age-dependent alterations to paraventricular nucleus insulin-like growth factor 1 receptor (IGF-1R) as a possible link between sympathoexcitation and inflammation. J Neurochem. 2016 Dec 139:706-721. PMID:27626839. 

    - Pardo J, M Abba, E Lacunza, OM Ogundele, I Paiva, GR Morel, TF Outeiro and RG Goya (2017). IGF-I gene therapy in aging rats modulates hippocampal genes relevant to memory function. J Gerontol Biol Sci (In review)