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New Hope for Brain Repair: a free public presentation on January 30

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25 January 2016

Gong ChenA free public lecture titled "New Hope for Brain Repair" will be given by Gong Chen, professor of biology and the Verne M. Willaman Chair in Life Sciences, on January 30 at 11:00 a.m. in 100 Thomas Building on the Penn State University Park Campus.

The presentation is the second of six lectures on consecutive Saturdays in the 2016 Penn State Lectures on the Frontiers of Science, an annual free public minicourse. Registration is not required, and all are welcome to attend. The six speakers this year are scientists who are expanding the frontiers of knowledge in fields of research related to human health.

During his lecture, Chen will describe his lab team's discovery of a new recipe for repairing scarred brain tissues by turning them back into functioning neural tissues. Chen and his group now are working to accelerate this research effort to more quickly develop medicines that patients could take to restore brain functions lost in diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's or after a stroke, concussion, or other injury to the brain or spinal cord.

Chen's research focuses on brain repair after injury and neurodegenerative disorders. He has pioneered an innovative in vivo reprogramming technology for converting a type of brain cells, called reactive glial cells, into functional neurons inside the brain. This seminal work was published in the scientific journal Cell Stem Cell and was selected as one of the "Best of 2014" articles published by the journal in recognition of the revolutionary approach of this research in the field of brain repair.

Chen and his colleagues have further discovered a new chemical recipe to turn glial cells into functioning neurons. Chen and his group are accelerating their research efforts to more quickly develop medicines that patients could take to restore brain functions lost in diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's or after a stroke, concussion, or other injury to the brain or spinal cord.

Professor Chen is a member of many professional societies, including the American Society for Neuroscience, the American Neurological Association, and the International Society for Stem Cell Research. He has presented invited talks at many international conferences and invited lectures throughout the United States and Asia. He has been honored by the Alzheimer’s Association with its Zenith Fellows Award. He also organized and chaired the first symposium on in vivo reprogramming at the 2014 annual meeting of Society for Neuroscience in Washington DC, marking a new field in stem cell research.

Chen has published scientific papers in high-impact journals such as Cell Stem Cell, Nature Communications, Nature, Cell, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Journal of Neuroscience, and Human Molecular Genetics. His research has been funded by such agencies as the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the U.S. National Science Foundation, the American Heart Association, Alzheimer’s Association, and most recently the U.S. Department of Defense. His research discoveries have been reported by news media worldwide.

Future lectures in the 2016 Penn State Lectures on the Frontiers of Science include:

  • "How to Stop an Epidemic" on February 6 by Matthew Ferrari, assistant professor of biology and statistics at Penn State;
  • "New Antibiotics for Drug-Resistant Infections" on February 13 by Kenneth Keiler, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Penn State;
  • "Invented: A Better Tool Against Cancer" on February 20 by Tony Jun Huang, professor of engineering science and mechanics and the Huck Distinguished Chair in Bioengineering Science and Mechanics at Penn State; and
  • "Anti-Cancer Drugs: Discovery and Development" on February 27 by Raymond J. Hohl, professor of medicine and pharmacology and the director of the Penn State Cancer Institute.


The Penn State Lectures on the Frontiers of Science is an annual free public minicourse organized and supported by the Penn State Eberly College of Science as an enjoyable and enlightening learning opportunity for residents of the Central Pennsylvania area. The lectures will be archived online for learners worldwide. More information about the Penn State Lectures on the Frontiers of Science, including archived recordings of previous lectures, is online at science.psu.edu/frontiers.

For more information or access assistance, contact the Eberly College of Science Office of Media Relations and Public Information by calling (814) 867-5830 or e-mailing science@psu.edu.

[ B. K. K. ]

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