Daniel Bonthius, MD, PhD

daniel-bonthius
Pediatrics, Neurology
Professor
Summary statement: 

Neurological Birth Defects

Office phone: 
(319) 356-1851
Office number: 
2504
Office building: 
JCP
Lab phone: 
(319) 335-6646
Lab room number: 
3185
Lab building: 
ML

This laboratory investigates the biological mechanisms underlying neurologic birth defects. We are specifically interested in the brain injuries induced by lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) and alcohol (fetal alcohol syndrome). In our studies of congenital LCMV infection, we utilize a rat model of the infection to study the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying the virus-induced neuropathology. We are investigating the immune cell types and the cytokines involved in virus-induced neuronal death. In the developing brain, LCMV specifically infects certain neuronal populations and leaves others completely uninfected. We are studying the mechanisms by which LCMV spreads through the brain and are attempting to identify the metabolic and molecular characteristics of neurons that render them vulnerable to infection. Following infection with LCMV, both humans and the rats in our model system develop epilepsy. We are investigating the pathophysiology underlying this virus-induced epileptic condition.

In our studies of fetal alcohol syndrome, we utilize animal models and tissue culture systems to study the mechanisms of alcohol-induced brain injury and the anatomical, histological and behavioral consequences of alcohol exposure. We have recently developed a mouse model of fetal alcohol syndrome, in which we utilize knock-out mice to study the importance of specific genes in influencing the pathological and behavioral effects of alcohol exposure.

We have recently begun a new line of research focusing on development of gene therapy for Alexander Disease. Alexander Disease is a devastating neurological disease of children caused by an autosomal dominant mutation of glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), a protein expressed in astrocytes of the central nervous system. We are developing viral gene therapy vectors for delivery of RNA inhibition to astrocytes to specifically turn off the mutated GFAP gene in astrocytes.

“I am from Taiwan, which means in addition to learning neuroscience, I also need to learn the language and culture of the United States. Iowa, especially the neuroscience program, provides me with an extremely friendly environment in which to learn. People in the program are warm, open-minded, and very willing to help me with my language questions, culture shock, homesickness, etc. In Taiwan, we say, “When you are home, you rely on your family; when you are not home, you rely on your friends. ” I made many friends in Iowa. In school, we help each other with classes and research. After school, we go out together, play sports together, and every once in a while, travel together (to nearby big cities and to conferences). Pursuing a Ph.D. degree is a long and difficult process. I am so glad that I came to Iowa for my degree because my friends and advisers here have been the always, most immediate, and most helpful support to me.”