MBI scientist lauded by international foundation

Brent Reynolds, Ph.D., a regenerative medicine scientist at the Evelyn F. and William L. McKnight Brain Institute of the University of Florida, was honored recently for his contributions to neuroscience by officials at the Catholic University in Rome and the university’s teaching hospital — the Gemelli University Polyclinic.

Reynolds received the Atena Onlus Association research award for work that began while he was a graduate student at the University of Calgary, where he helped discover that mice continue to produce brain cells throughout their lives. The finding drastically changed scientists’ perception of the brain and its ability to repair itself.

Brent Reynolds, Ph.D.

Brent Reynolds, Ph.D.

“We were looking for a molecule to keep brain cells alive after stroke or in Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, but we ended up discovering the brain stem cell,” said Reynolds, an associate professor of neurosurgery at the College of Medicine. “Since that discovery, we now know where these stem cells are located and, in particular regions of the human brain, these stem cells are dividing and making new brain cells, probably on the order of hundreds of thousands every day. The discovery opened a door that said the brain isn’t static, it is plastic. When the brain is injured, it’s not that there is nothing we can do. The brain has the capacity to repair itself.”

The Atena Onlus Association research award has been given to only a few scientists in the world, including Dennis A. Steindler, Ph.D., the executive director of UF’s McKnight Brain Institute, who similarly helped discover that stem cells are at work in the human brain.

“Dr. Reynolds’ work helped shape the modern understanding of adult stem cells,” Steindler said. “It is extremely gratifying to see his achievement being recognized by such a renowned organization.”

The Atena Onlus Association, in collaboration with the municipality of Rome and the Catholic University, strives to recognize and emphasize important scientific research. The Catholic University and Gemelli University Polyclinic are widely known for treating Pope John Paul II’s medical conditions from 1981 to 2005.

As for Reynolds’ current work, he runs the Adult Stem Cell Engineering and Therapeutic Core at the MBI with Ed Scott, Ph.D., the director of UF’s Program in Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, in part focusing on therapies that harness the brain’s natural reparative mechanisms.