Department of Neurobiology of the Fourth Military Medical University was founded in 1985 and, to meet the demands of establishing a first grade neuroscience research center in China, promoting multidisciplinary studies and international collaboration in neuroscience, and promoting neuroscience research in the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) and in China, the PLA Institute of Neurosciences was established based on this Department in 1992, with the approval of the PLA General Department of Logistics. After a development for over 20 years, the institute now is the State Key Laboratory of Neurobiology in China and National “211” Project Key Disciplines, National Master and Ph.D. Degrees-authorized Disciplines,the Post-doctoral Research Station in Basic Medicine, National "Chang-Jiang Scholar Award Scheme" and the PLA Key Laboratory of Neurobiology. Today, it is one of the most distinguished institutes in China, representing an integrative and modern research capacity in neurobiology.
Twenty-six faculties are on the paying list, including 7 full professors (including one academician of Chinese Academy of Sciences and 7 supervisors for Ph.D. candidate), 5 associate professors and 7 lecturers. Around 80-90 persons regularly work in the institute. All the supervisors under 55 years old for Ph.D. and master students have Ph.D. degrees. Eighty-seven master-degree students, 96 Ph.D. candidates and 6 postdoctoral fellows, together with 55 research fellows for their advanced trainings have already graduated from this institute. Sixteen of the present faculties have been trained abroad. Some of them have become well-known neuroscientists and directors of the institute. International academic exchanges are very active in this Institute. Based on a rough statistical analysis, the professors in this Institute have been invited as speakers for 15 times to present plenary and special lectures at international conferences and Professor Gong Ju, Director of the Institute, has been invited to give talks in 45 institutions of 15 countries. Six well-known foreign neuroscientists have become the guest professors and the Institute has the long-term cooperations with a number of neuroscientists and institutions in the world.
Ninety-six research grants, including 3 Key Projects of Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC), 3 National "973" sub-projects, 2 Distinguished Young Scholars' Projects of NSFC,57 NSFC projects, 8 research funds of the Army, 1 international cooperation fund, 2 Joint Grants by NSFC and Hong Kong RGC, 5 Shaanxi Provincial Fundations and 14 grants from the University with a total amount of about RMB 23.61 million. By the end of 2008, the Institute has had 1025 scientific articles (including 220 SCI papers) published, and the number of citations is over 3,500.
Numbers of scientific awards have been harvested, including 1 Third-Grade National Award for Invention, 1 Ho Leung Ho Lee Award for the Progress in Science and Technology Progress, 1 PLA Contribution Award for Science and Technology, 3 "Eighth Five-Year Plan" and "Ninth Five-Year Plan" Contribution Awards forScientific and Technological Achievements, 4 Army First-Grade Awards for Scientific and Technological Progress, 7 Army Second-Grade Award for Scientific and Technological Progress and 1 National Award for Young Scientists.
The major research interests of the Institute:
1. Repair of injured central nervous system
(1) Repair of injured spinal cord: A. pathophysiological responses and treating strategies after spinal cord injury; B. inhibitors of axonal regeneration including Nogo-A and its receptor; C. bridging injured spinal cord with segments of peripheral nerves. D. clinical study on early neurosurgical intervention after spinal cord injury.
(2) Repair of injured optic nerves: A. serious studies on olfactory ensheathing cell transplantation to enhance the survival and axonal regenration of axotomized retinal ganglion cells; B. using different medicines to repair injured optic nerve.
2. Direct innervation of nerve fibers in the anterior pituitary
As an original exploration, direct innervation of nerve fibers in the anterior pituitary, Morphological and functional analysis has been used to prove that the nerve fibers have a direct regulative effect on hormone secretion in anterior pituitary. Based on the evidence, hypothesis of neural-humoral dual regulation of mammalian anterior pituitary was postulated, which is the complement and challenge to the classical theory of hypothalamic humoral regulation of the mammalian anterior pituitary. Recently, we observed the phenomenon that the nerve fibers play different roles in different hormone secretion. Now we are interesting in answering the underlying mechanisms of how the nerve fibers regulate hormone secretion in pituitary.
3. Coding of neural information and mechanisms of pain
In order to explore the neural mechanisms underlying neuropathic pain and other abnormal pain signals and the complexity of neural functional activity, the basic modes and rules of sensory information generating, transmitting and coding in neurons are studied through combining neuroelectrophysiology and non-linear science.
4. The role of brain in military stress and response
This study makes target on key brain regions for military stress and intercommunications among various elements, and mainly by studying responses of neurons, neuroglial cells and capillary to the noxious and non-noxious military stimulus in the brain.
Immunomodulation group addresses the interaction between the central nervous system and the mechanisms of the interaction. Their work focuses on the afferent pathway of the immune messages to the brain and the cerebral regulating circuit to these messages. They have documented that carotid body expresses interleukin-1 and interleukin-6 receptors, and currently been investigating the mechanism of the pro-inflammatory factors on the carotid body and their effect on the sinus nerve firing, in order to prove that carotid body may act as immune signal detector and transmitter to central nervous system. In the aspect of circuit research, primary brain nuclei involved in immunoregulation have been described via comparison to other stress responsive pathway.
6. New protection and cell replacement therapeutic strategies against neurodegenerative disease
The main interest of this study is to investigate new mechanism of cell death in neurodegenerative disease (Parkinson’s disease) by using MPTP mouse model, 6-OHDA rat model and cell culture, and then to find new protection molecular pathways for dopaminergic neurons of the substantia nigra. The ultimate targets of this study are to setup new protection and stem cell transplantation methods against Parkinson’s disease in human beings.