Scott R. Barnum, Ph.D.
Department of Microbiology

Telephone: (205) 934-4972
Office Location: BBRB 842, zip 2170

Research Focus:  Role of complement in the central nervous system

Biography | Lab Research Focus | References on PubMed
Complement Teaching Video

Lab Research Focus

My research interests have been on the production and regulation of several components in the complement system. These interests are focused on the central nervous system (CNS) based on strong evidence for a role for complement in many CNS diseases, including demyelinating disease, bacterial meningitis and cerebral malaria. Over the years, studies from our lab and others have clearly shown that most if not all complement proteins can be synthesized by astrocytes, microglia, and to our surprise, neurons. Since these initial observations, we have moved into in vivo models systems, using a variety of disease models, including bacterial meningitis, brain trauma, experimental allergic encephalomyelitis (EAE) and most recently a cerebral malaria model using Plasmodium berghei. We have demonstrated that a number of complement proteins and receptors are widely produced in the intact CNS under pathological conditions in these models. Currently we are examining the utility of several complement inhibitors in EAE with the hope of moving these molecules into Phase 1 clinical trials in the next couple of years. In addition to complement, we have expanded our interests to examine the role of C-reactive protein (CRP) and it's ligands, in EAE, using several CRP mutant mice. These studies have indicated sexual dimorphism in the ability of CRP to be protective in demyelinating disease and are currently ongoing.

We are also interested in host defense functions of complement as it relates to bacterial meningitis and malaria. Studies from our lab have shown diagnostic potential for complement proteins in discriminating bacterial versus aseptic meningitis. We are beginning studies to expand on these initial findings. Most recently we have started examining the role of complement in a murine model of cerebral malaria. These studies should help us determine where and how complement contributes to host defense against malaria infection or if targeted complement inhibition may reduce disease severity.