Motor Neuron Center
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RESEARCH THEME: Throughout my career, I have studied the formation and maintenance of synapses, the junctions between nerve cells and their targets through which information is transferred. I have been particularly interested in the neuromuscular junction, a synapse that is easily accessible to experimental manipulation. I've pioneered the use of cultured neurons and muscle cells to characterize the biochemical, cellular, and electrophysiological mechanisms underlying development and function of the neuromuscular junction. Beginning in the 1970's, I embarked on a search for molecules released by motor neurons that regulate the number of acetylcholine receptors on muscle cells. This work culminated in 1993 with the purification and cloning of a protein called ARIA (for acetylcholine receptor-inducing activity) that stimulates synthesis of acetylcholine receptors by skeletal muscle cells. This molecule is now known to be a member of a family of trophic factors called neuregulins that are thought to be involved in a variety of important developmental processes in the nervous system. Because ARIA and other neuregulins act by binding to tyrosine kinase receptors on target cells, my work has been key in demonstrating that synaptic development relies upon biochemical mechanisms that are broadly similar to those that underlie the action of nerve growth factor and other well known trophic molecules. My current focus is on trophic factors that influence synaptic efficacy and nerve cell survival.

BACKGROUND AND EDUCATION : Gerald D. Fischbach, M.D., is Executive Vice President for Health and Biomedical Sciences; Dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University. Dr. Fischbach received his M.D. degree in 1965 from Cornell University Medical School and interned at the University of Washington Hospital. He began his research career at the National Institutes of Health, serving from 1966 - 1973. He subsequently served on the faculty of Harvard Medical School, first as Associate Professor of Pharmacology from 1973 - 1978 and then as Professor until 1981. From 1981 - 1990, Dr. Fischbach was the Edison Professor of Neurobiology and Head of the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology at Washington University School of Medicine. In 1990, he returned to Harvard Medical School where he was the Nathan Marsh Pusey Professor of Neurobiology and Chairman of the Neurobiology Departments of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital until 1998. He served as Director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health from 1998 - 2001.

1960 A.B. Colgate University, Hamilton, NY. (Mathematics and Chemistry; magna cum laude)
1965 M.D. Cornell University Medical School, New York, NY
1978 M.A. (Hon.) Harvard University, Boston, MA
2003 (Hon.) Doctor of Science, honoris causa, Colgate University, Hamiliton, NY

1956-60 New York State Regents Scholarship
1960 High Honors in Mathematics (Colgate)
1960 Phi Beta Kappa (Colgate)
1962-65 New York State Medical Scholarship (Cornell)
1965 Polk Award for Undergraduate Research (Cornell)
1975 Mathilde Solowey Award in Neurosciences (Foundation for Advanced Education in the Sciences: NIH)
1981 W. Alden Spencer Award (College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University)
1981- Neuroscience Research Program, Associate
1984- Member, National Academy of Sciences, elected 1984
1988- Member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, elected 1988
1990- Member, Institute of Medicine, elected 1990
1991- Member, European Academy of Sciences and Art, elected 1991
1997 Cambridge Scientific Club
1998 The Foundation Ipsen Neuronal Plasticity Prize
2000 Dr. Nathan Davis Award, Member of the Executive Branch of the Federal Government in Career Public Service, American Medical Association
2003 Member, Council for Foreign Relations
2003 Parkinson's Disease Foundation Honor for Contributions
2003 Member, American Philosophical Society
2004 Maroon Citation Colgate University

  • Loeb JA, Hmadcha A, Fischbach GD, Land SJ, and Zakarian VL (2002). Neuregullin expression at neuromuscular synapses is modulated by synaptic activity and neurotrophic factors. J. of Neurosci. 22(6).
  • Mann MA, Knipe DM, Fischbach GD, Fields BN (2002). Type 3 reovirus neuroinvation after intramuscular inoculation: direct invasion of nerve terminals and age-dependent pathogenesis. Virology Nov 25:303(2):222-31.
  • Jacobson C, Duggan D, and Fischbach G, (2004) Neuregulin induces the expression of transcription factors and myosin heavy chains typical of muscle spindles in cultured human muscle. PNAS 101(33): 12218-12223.
  • Fischbach G, and Fischbach R, (2004) Stem Cells: science, policy, and ethics. J. of Clinical Investigation 114(10): 1364-1370.
  • Fischbach RL, and Fischbach GD, (2005) The brain doesn't lie. Am J Bioeth Spring 5(2): 54-55.
  • Liu Y, Ford BD, Mann MA, and Fischbach GD, (2005) Neuregulin-1 increases the proliferation of neuronal progenitors from embryonic neural stem cells. Dev Biol Jul 15;283(2): 437-445.