Meet Dolan: He conducted cutting-edge brain injury research

"Maybe by the time I'm a physician, things I'm working on now could be tools I use."

January 15, 2019 

Dolan is looking at traumatic brain injury from a fresh angle.

Traditionally, research has focused on rebuilding synapses after a brain injuries. At Dolan’s lab, they’re investigating when damaged tissue might still be saved.

“There's a group of proteins in the hippocampus, and they have different isoforms — so they're generally the same protein, but just a little different in structure. 1 isoform is reduced after traumatic brain injury, and the other wasn't. Which is surprising, because they're so similar in their structure.”

As a BE Fellow, under the guidance of his mentor at the lab, Dolan got to independently investigate a few of those proteins in 4 different regions in the brain.

“The research just at the beginning stages,” he said. “But especially for something as specific as what I'm doing, it's important to step back and see how it could eventually change people's lives. To be involved in that is super humbling.”  

He hasn’t found anything groundbreaking yet — but even that is valuable. As more and more labs examine these proteins, knowing what doesn’t work helps guide the next steps.

“Really any type of trend is going to be really exciting for me," Dolan said. "Because when you find these patterns in pathology, that's when you start to see an overall view of the process. And you can start to think about treating that pattern. Even though my lab isn't anywhere close to that stage, it's once you kind of see things start adding up that it gets very exciting.”