Professor, Anesthesiology, University of California, San Diego
Dr. Head is a Research Health Scientist at the VA San Diego Healthcare System and holds a dual appointment as a Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology at UCSD. The goal of his research is to use genetic interventions to restore functional neuronal and synaptic plasticity in the neurodegenerative brain and spinal cord. Specifically, he researches caveolin (Cav), a scaffolding protein in membrane/lipid rafts (MLRs), that regulates synaptic signaling and neuroplasticity in neuronal models (human neurons derived from iPSCs, animal models of neurodegeneration such as AD and ALS). Dr. Head previously published that neuron-targeted Cav-1 (using a synapsin promoter, termed SynCav1) increases MLR formation, enhances structural and functional synaptic and neuroplasticity, and improves hippocampal-dependent learning and memory in aged mice. In 2018, at San Diego VA Research Week, symposium and workshop, “InnoVAtions in Gene Therapy“, Dr. Head was invited to present his work titled “Neuron-targeted caveolin-1 as a gene therapy for CNS disorders”. This InnoVAtions in Gene Therapy forum is a component of the broader National VA Research Week “InnoVAtion to Implementation” that highlighted the importance of quickly moving results from the laboratory to clinical practice in order to benefit our Veterans, which fulfills the VA mission statement and is a major objective of Chief Research and Development Officer Dr. Rachel Ramoni. This current RR&D application addresses a major gap in knowledge that is of particular relevance to augmenting neuroplasticity and restoring neuronal function in the setting of neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS.
Outside of his research commitment, Dr. Head serves as a member on the VA IACUC and R&D committees and actively mentors visiting international scholars who are involved in research in the laboratory at the VA and with its affiliate university UCSD. In 2012, Dr. Head received the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) through the Department of Veterans Affairs, which is the highest honor given by the United States Government to science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.