Research Interests

  • Cerebral ischemia and traumatic brain injury
  • Neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration
  • Sex and gender differences in response to brain damage
  • Brain-liver axis ~ Brain-gut-microbiome axis ~ Brain-periphery axis
  • Glia activation
  • Neuroprotection and Neurorestoration
  • Neurodegenerative process

Research Methods

  • Animal models of brain injury
  • In vivo imaging
  • Immunohistochemistry and microscopy analysis
  • Protein analysis
  • DNA and RNA purification
  • Sequencing and bioinformatic analysis
  • Behavior analysis

Publications on these Topics:

Stroke/brain Ischemia                             Traumatic brain injury

Current Projects

The Villapol Laboratory is interested in developing novel therapies for patients suffering from brain injury while performing exploratory research in the avenue of brain trauma and stroke. The central areas of investigation include the following topics:

The Role of Peripheral Inflammation on Brain Damage
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and cerebral ischemia trigger a loss of brain tissue and, subsequently, a strong inflammatory response in the brain. In addition, brain damage can alter the function of peripheral regions and other organs, eliciting systemic responses, and global consequences. A focal injury to the brain elicits a rapid hepatic response; the production of chemokines by the liver acts as an amplifier of the focal injury response providing a route of CNS-liver communication. However, little is currently known regarding the inflammatory mediators and acute-phase proteins involved in the peripheral regions after brain injury, such as the liver. Furthermore, the extent of damage TBI inflicts on the peripheral organs remains largely unexplored.

Can a concussion change your gut microbiota?

Athletes who participate in contact sports are at risk of suffering from concussions, which can result in chronic headaches, nausea, anxiety and depression. Head injury also induces intestinal changes, including to microbes found in the gut; and the brain, in turn, can react to signals from the intestinal microbiome. This interaction is called the “brain-gut” axis. The results from this study will help us to identify temporal sequelae and biomarkers of head injury and will lead us to new treatments to prevent the consequences of concussions.

The Role of Microbiome in the Neuropathology of Traumatic Brain Injury and Stroke
Gut microbiota are an essential neuromodulator of gut-brain axis signaling and can impact brain inflammation and outcome after ischemic injury. Several studies have shown that microbiota composition, diversity, and richness can influence anxiety and depressive behaviors. The Villapol Lab has recently been focused on how TBI affects the function of peripheral systems and is studying how the brain injury alters the microbiome and the resultant impact on TBI-induced affective disorders.

Targeting Inflammation as a Preventative Measure for the Onset of Alzheimer´s Disease after Head Injury
The devastating deficiencies that result in the brain from brain injuries stem from multiple overlapping mechanisms, exacerbated by the fact that there are no effective treatments. Brain damage is recognized as the strongest environmental risk factor for neurodegenerative disease later in life, including dementia of Alzheimer’s disease-type. Current brain injury therapies have not lived up to expectations; therefore, investigating novel compounds that address multiple mechanisms is required to pursue neuroprotective efficacy.