Dr. Brian MacVicar



Co-Director, Djavad Mowafaghian Centrefor Brain Health

Current Research Focus

Dr. MacVicar’s research has focused on the mechanisms required to maintain a healthy brain by finding ways to prevent neuronal damage. His work has provided new insights into potential targets for preventing brain damage via neuronal death during stroke. Dr. MacVicar has been a leader in the development and application of advanced brain imaging techniques during his career. He discovered that brain tissue is more transparent in infrared wavelengths, which are used widely to visualize nerve cells in intact brain tissue. With Image Science, a company he founded, he developed software that was widely used to control scientific image acquisition equipment and imaging analysis. The MacVicar lab has implemented two-photon microscopy and uncaging techniques to investigate and visualize complex interactions in the brain. The application of advanced imaging techniques has allowed his lab to make significant contributions to our understanding of how neuronal activity is regulated and how to protect nerve cells during stroke.

Example Project

“Pannexins in Cytotoxic Swelling-Induced Cell Death” Large strokes that affect substantial regions of the brain, head injury, hypoxia or infection can lead to swelling of the brain, termed brain edema. The swelling of the brain under these circumstances can progressively develop leading to increased pressure inside the skull, coma and even death. New treatments for limiting brain swelling could have profound therapeutic impact. Understanding how brain edema develops and what processes or ion channels that if blocked could prevent it will provide a critical mechanism to prevent this major cause of death after strokes. The research proposed here will examine the cellular mechanisms that contribute to brain edema and the progressive death of neurons. In the intact skull the immediate cause of death from brain edema is the herniation of the brain into the brainstem. Prevention of neuronal swelling is one avenue to reduce overall brain swelling and prevent herniation. However neuronal swelling itself can lead to the death and disruption of neurons and breakdown of neuronal connectivity. This research is designed to determine whether a type of channel in neurons called a pannexin channel contributes to the disruption and death of neurons during swelling. Success will lead to new therapies to prevent brain damage from edema.

Research Keywords

Brain Swelling, Cytotoxic Neuronal Edema, Two Photon Microscopy, Whole Cell Voltage Clamp, Astrocyte, Cerebral Blood Flow, Intracellular Calcium, Intracellular Chloride, Neurovascular Coupling

First Nations land acknowledegement

We acknowledge that the UBC Point Grey campus is situated on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm.

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