Dr. Ashley Kalinski, assistant professor of biology at Ball State University, was awarded a grant from the Merkin Peripheral Neuropathy and Nerve Regeneration Center at Johns Hopkins University to study nerve regeneration in mice.

The research team, led by Dr. Kalinski and comprised of Ball State students, will be interacting and collaborating with world-renowned neuroscientists to generate three new transgenic mouse lines.

“We know of a protein that is essential for nerve regeneration, but we don’t know if it is essential in just neurons, macrophages—immune cells—or in other cell types,” Dr. Kalinski said. “We are going to selectively remove it from all of those cell types and then figure out how that impacts nerve regeneration.

“We are looking at the peripheral nerve because over 20 million people suffer from peripheral nerve injury,” she added. “Peripheral nerve injury can happen from disease states or just from traumatic injuries themselves. A peripheral nerve is anything outside of your brain or your spinal cord, including arms, legs, and fingers.”

Through the generation of these mice, Dr. Kalinski and her team aim to understand the mechanisms behind nerve regeneration in the peripheral nervous system so that the research can be applied to treating spinal cord injuries in the future.

Dr. Kalinski was part of the first cohort of researchers outside Johns Hopkins University allowed to apply for the program, and was one of nine to receive a grant among a national pool of applicants. Her goal is to present her team’s findings at the 2024 Merkin Peripheral Neuropathy and Nerve Regeneration Center’s second annual symposium on March 22, 2024.

In addition to the grant provided by Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Kalinski was also awarded a National Institutes of Health R15 grant in 2023, which reached $447,000 in total funds and helped fund the assessment of the immune response following traumatic nerve injury.