Tyler Schwend, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Biology
B.S. Biology, U of Illinois, Urbana
Ph.D Life Sciences, Northwestern University
National Institute of Health postdoctoral fellow at Kansas State University
National Institute of Health postdoctoral fellow at University of Illinois, Urbana
The best way to learn about research ongoing in the Schwend lab and to find out how
you can get involved is to visit the Schwend Lab Website.
Following nerve damage, injured neurons have a limited capacity to reestablish functional
circuits. A major obstacle to regeneration facing damaged nerve fibers is a harsh
extrinsic environment containing an array of inhibitory molecules, including secreted
nerve guidance molecules and glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). The latter group of molecules
includes chondroitin sulfate (CS) and keratan sulfate (KS), both of which are commonly
associated with mature, adult tissues that do not support nerve regeneration. This
highlights GAGs as potential therapeutic targets to enhance repair in the nervous
system following injury.
Devising therapeutic strategies to overcome the inhibitory nature of GAGs on regenerating
nerve fibers has been limited by a fragmentary understanding of how nerves interpret
complex molecular and structural guidance cues from GAGs. To overcome this, my research
focuses on understanding how GAGs (and other extracellular matrix molecules) influence
nerve pathfinding and growth decisions in the developing embryo. Gaining a mechanistic
understanding of how developing nerves interpret and respond to these extrinsic cues
will foster therapies designed to overcome their influence and promote nerve regeneration
Research in my lab utilizes the embryonic chick as a model system and focus on the
cornea. The cornea is the most densely innervated tissue on the surface of the body
(this is why it hurts when you get something in it!) and its nerves are often damaged
following corrective surgeries, such as LASIK. Nerve regeneration in the cornea occurs
slowly, if at all, and my lab remains interested in understanding mechanistically
how the abundance of a diverse array of corneal GAGs may be negatively influencing
neuro-regeneration in the cornea.
Students in my lab carry out molecular, cellular, biochemical and histological techniques
in a living vertebrate model system in an effort to provide other vision scientists
and ophthalmologists with invaluable insight into regenerative therapies following
corneal nerve damage.
Dr. Schwend teaches
- General Biology (BIOL102)
- Human Anatomy and Physiology labs (BIOL 107/108)
- Biology and Ethics (BIOL 300)
- Animal Physiology (BIOL 307)
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience (BIOL 325)