Dr. Kabbani is a Systems Biologist at the School of Systems Biology, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, United States of America
What is your area of study and why is it important?
I am interested in cell signaling as an adaptive evolutionary biological process and in receptor signaling as a specific paradigm of information flow in the cell. I study mechanisms of calcium signaling through protein-protein interactions by nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in neural and immune cells. This class of ligand gated channel receptors is important in transmitting cholinergic signals in most cell types and organ systems. Specifically, the alpha 7 type of the nicotinic receptor, which we tend to focus on, is a key drug target for several leading human neural and immune diseases including schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s Disease.
Is your research interdisciplinary?
Yes, our research is highly interdisciplinary and on several fronts. First, neuroscience by definition is an interdisciplinary field building on relations between molecular and (cell network) organ level events. We are interested in how nicotinic receptors regulate synaptic growth during neural development and then again how similar mechanisms relate to functional plasticity in adulthood.
Second, my lab utilizes a range of techniques from classical molecular biology to innovative functional proteomic methods. Our publications demonstrate the complementary use of many techniques and ideas in a study. Last, we try to “think outside the box” whenever possible. For example, we are studying G protein signaling through an ion channel. Not long ago that would have seemed an unlikely process but discoveries at the interface of protein-protein interaction and signal transduction by our lab and others have provided insight into ways that ion channels can signal in many cells
How do you think that publishing all rigorous science impacts scientific knowledge and advancement?
Like many scientists I am a strong supporter of transparency at all stages of the (publication) process. I also believe that a comprehensive understanding of a subject relies on knowing what is and what is not. Consequently, publishing negative findings is just as important.
Has your work expanded discussion in the scientific community or the broader public?
I believe so. On one front, we have examined ways that nicotine addiction can be facilitated by menthol, a known additive to virtually all tobacco products. In doing so we, and others, have uncovered early evidence that the addition of menthol may impact brain circuits for drug addiction thereby altering the addictive potential of nicotine. This work has been published in PLOS and well cited by various public media sources including the LA Times. Within the scientific community, our work has contributed to an ongoing awareness in the contribution of cigarette additives, such as menthol, in nicotine addiction.
PLOS ONE publications:
Alpha 7 nicotinic receptors attenuate neurite development through calcium activation of calpain at the gAlpha 7 nicotinic receptors attenuate neurite development through calcium activation of calpain at the growth cone
PLOS ONE, May 16, 2018
PLOS ONE, September 10, 2015
PLOS ONE, July 23, 2013