Professional Education

  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of Arizona, Neuroscience (2021)
  • Bachelor of Science, University of Missouri, Biochemistry (2017)

Stanford Advisors

All Publications

  • FDA-approved 5-HT1F receptor agonist lasmiditan induces mitochondrial biogenesis and enhances locomotor and blood-spinal cord barrier recovery after spinal cord injury. Experimental neurology Simmons, E. C., Scholpa, N. E., Schnellmann, R. G. 2021; 341: 113720


    Vascular and mitochondrial dysfunction are well-established consequences of spinal cord injury (SCI). Evidence suggests mitigating these dysfunctions may be an effective approach in treating SCI. The goal of this study was to elucidate if mitochondrial biogenesis (MB) induction with a new, selective and FDA-approved 5-hydroxytryptamine receptor 1F (5-HT1F) receptor agonist, lasmiditan, can stimulate locomotor recovery and restoration of the blood-spinal cord barrier (BSCB) after SCI. Female C57BL/6 J mice were subjected to moderate SCI using a force-controlled impactor-induced contusion model followed by daily administration of lasmiditan (0.1 mg/kg, i.p.) beginning 1 h after injury. In the naïve spinal cord, electron microscopy revealed increased mitochondrial density and mitochondrial area, as well as enhanced mitochondrial DNA content. FCCP-uncoupled oxygen consumption rate (OCR), a functional marker of MB, was also increased in the naïve spinal cord following lasmiditan treatment. We observed disrupted mitochondrial DNA content, PGC-1α levels and FCCP-OCR in the injury site 3d after SCI. Lasmiditan treatment attenuated, and in some cases restored these deficits. Lasmiditan treatment also resulted in increased locomotor capability as early as 7d post-SCI, with treated mice reaching a Basso-Mouse Scale score of 3.3 by 21d, while vehicle-treated mice exhibited a score of 2.0. Integrity of the BSCB was assessed using Evans Blue dye extravasation. While SCI increased dye extravasation at 3d and 7d, dye accumulation in the spinal cord of lasmiditan-treated mice was attenuated 7d post-SCI, suggesting accelerated BSCB recovery. Finally, lasmiditan treatment resulted in decreased lesion volume and spared myelinated tissue 7d post-SCI. Collectively, these data reveal that 5-HT1F receptor agonist-induced MB using the FDA-approved drug lasmiditan may be an effective therapeutic strategy for the treatment of SCI.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.expneurol.2021.113720

    View details for PubMedID 33848513

  • Mitochondrial biogenesis as a therapeutic target for traumatic and neurodegenerative CNS diseases. Experimental neurology Simmons, E. C., Scholpa, N. E., Schnellmann, R. G. 2020; 329: 113309


    Central nervous system (CNS) diseases, both traumatic and neurodegenerative, are characterized by impaired mitochondrial bioenergetics and often disturbed mitochondrial dynamics. The dysregulation observed in these pathologies leads to defective respiratory chain function and reduced ATP production, thereby promoting neuronal death. As such, attenuation of mitochondrial dysfunction through induction of mitochondrial biogenesis (MB) is a promising, though still underexplored, therapeutic strategy. MB is a multifaceted process involving the integration of highly regulated transcriptional events, lipid membrane and protein synthesis/assembly and replication of mtDNA. Several nuclear transcription factors promote the expression of genes involved in oxidative phosphorylation, mitochondrial import and export systems, antioxidant defense and mitochondrial gene transcription. Of these, the nuclear-encoded peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ coactivator 1α (PGC-1α) is the most commonly studied and is widely accepted as the 'master regulator' of MB. Several recent preclinical studies document that reestablishment of mitochondrial homeostasis through increased MB results in inhibited injury progression and increased functional recovery. This perspective will briefly review the role of mitochondrial dysfunction in the propagation of CNS diseases, while also describing current research strategies that mediate mitochondrial dysfunction and compounds that induce MB for the treatment of acute and chronic neuropathologies.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.expneurol.2020.113309

    View details for PubMedID 32289315

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC7735537

  • 5-hydroxytryptamine 1F Receptor Agonist Induces Mitochondrial Biogenesis and Promotes Recovery from Spinal Cord Injury. The Journal of pharmacology and experimental therapeutics Simmons, E. C., Scholpa, N. E., Cleveland, K. H., Schnellmann, R. G. 2020; 372 (2): 216-223


    Spinal cord injury (SCI) is characterized by vascular disruption leading to ischemia, decreased oxygen delivery, and loss of mitochondrial homeostasis. This mitochondrial dysfunction results in loss of cellular functions, calcium overload, and oxidative stress. Pharmacological induction of mitochondrial biogenesis (MB) may be an effective approach to treat SCI. LY344864, a 5-hydroxytryptamine 1F (5-HT1F) receptor agonist, is a potent inducer of MB in multiple organ systems. To assess the efficacy of LY344864-induced MB on recovery post-SCI, female mice were subjected to moderate force-controlled impactor-induced contusion SCI followed by daily LY344864 administration for 21 days. Decreased mitochondrial DNA and protein content was present in the injury site 3 days post-SCI. LY344864 treatment beginning 1 h after injury attenuated these decreases, indicating MB. Additionally, injured mice treated with LY344864 displayed decreased Evan's Blue dye accumulation in the spinal cord compared with vehicle-treated mice 7 days after injury, suggesting restoration of vascular integrity. LY344864 also increased locomotor capability, with treated mice reaching a Basso-Mouse Scale score of 3.4 by 21 days, whereas vehicle-treated mice exhibited a score of 1.9. Importantly, knockout of the 5-HT1F receptor blocked LY344864-induced recovery. Remarkably, a similar degree of locomotor restoration was observed when treatment initiation was delayed until 8 h after injury. Furthermore, cross-sectional analysis of the spinal cord 21 days after injury revealed decreased lesion volume with delayed LY344864 treatment initiation, emphasizing the potential clinical applicability of this therapeutic approach. These data provide evidence that induction of MB via 5-HT1F receptor agonism may be a promising strategy for the treatment of SCI. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: Treatment with LY344864 induces mitochondrial biogenesis in both the naive and injured mouse spinal cord. In addition, treatment with LY344864 beginning after impactor-induced contusion spinal cord injury improves mitochondrial homeostasis, blood-spinal cord barrier integrity, and locomotor function within 7 days. Importantly, similar locomotor results are observed whether treatment is initiated at 1 h after injury or 8 h after injury. These data indicate the potential for pharmacological induction of mitochondrial biogenesis through a 5-hydroxytryptamine 1F agonist as a novel therapeutic approach for spinal cord injury.

    View details for DOI 10.1124/jpet.119.262410

    View details for PubMedID 31776207

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC6978694

  • Time-to-treatment window and cross-sex potential of β2-adrenergic receptor-induced mitochondrial biogenesis-mediated recovery after spinal cord injury. Toxicology and applied pharmacology Scholpa, N. E., Simmons, E. C., Crossman, J. D., Schnellmann, R. G. 2021; 411: 115366


    Mitochondrial dysfunction is a well-characterized consequence of spinal cord injury (SCI). We previously reported that treatment with the FDA-approved β2-adrenergic receptor agonist formoterol beginning 8 h post-SCI induces mitochondrial biogenesis (MB) and improves body composition and locomotor recovery in female mice. To determine the time-to-treatment window of formoterol, female mice were subjected to 80 kdyn contusion SCI and daily administration of vehicle or formoterol (0.3 mg/kg) beginning 24 h after injury. This delayed treatment paradigm improved body composition in female mice by 21 DPI, returning body weight to pre-surgery weight and restoring gastrocnemius mass to sham levels; however, there was no effect on locomotor recovery, as measured by the Basso-Mouse Scale (BMS), or lesion volume. To assess the cross-sex potential of formoterol, injured male mice were treated with vehicle or formoterol (0.3 or 1.0 mg/kg) beginning 8 h after SCI. Formoterol also improved body composition post-SCI in male mice, restoring body weight and muscle mass regardless of dose. Interestingly, however, improved BMS scores and decreased lesion volume was observed only in male mice treated with 0.3 mg/kg. Additionally, 0.3 mg/kg formoterol induced MB in the gastrocnemius and injured spinal cord, as evidenced by increased MB protein expression and mitochondrial number. These data indicate that formoterol treatment improves recovery post-SCI in both male and female mice in a dose- and initiation time-dependent manner. Furthermore, formoterol-induced functional recovery post-SCI is not directly associated with peripheral effects, such as muscle mass and body weight.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.taap.2020.115366

    View details for PubMedID 33316273

  • β2-adrenergic receptor-mediated mitochondrial biogenesis improves skeletal muscle recovery following spinal cord injury. Experimental neurology Scholpa, N. E., Simmons, E. C., Tilley, D. G., Schnellmann, R. G. 2019; 322: 113064


    In addition to local spinal cord dysfunction, spinal cord injury (SCI) can result in decreased skeletal muscle mitochondrial activity and muscle atrophy. Treatment with the FDA-approved β2-adrenergic receptor (ADRB2) agonist formoterol has been shown to induce mitochondrial biogenesis (MB) in both the spinal cord and skeletal muscle and, therefore, has the potential to address comprehensive mitochondrial and organ dysfunction following SCI. Female C57BL/6 mice were subjected to moderate contusion SCI (80 Kdyn) followed by daily administration of vehicle or formoterol beginning 8 h after injury, a clinically relevant time-point characterized by a 50% decrease in mtDNA content in the injury site. As measured by the Basso Mouse Scale, formoterol treatment improved locomotor recovery in SCI mice compared to vehicle treatment by 7 DPI, with continued recovery observed through 21 DPI (3.5 v. 2). SCI resulted in 15% body weight loss in all mice by 3 DPI. Mice treated with formoterol returned to pre-surgery weight by 13 DPI, while no weight gain occurred in vehicle-treated SCI mice. Remarkably, formoterol-treated mice exhibited a 30% increase in skeletal muscle mass compared to those treated with vehicle 21 DPI (0.93 v. 0.72% BW), corresponding with increased MB and decreased skeletal muscle atrophy. These effects were not observed in ADRB2 knockout mice subjected to SCI, indicating that formoterol is acting via the ADRB2 receptor. Furthermore, knockout mice exhibited decreased basal spinal cord and skeletal muscle PGC-1α expression, suggesting that ADRB2 may play a role in mitochondrial homeostasis under physiological conditions. These data provide evidence for systemic ADRB2-mediated MB as a therapeutic avenue for the treatment of SCI.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.expneurol.2019.113064

    View details for PubMedID 31525347

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC7751764