Tjalkens Lab

The Tjalkens Laboratory investigates neuroinflammation and the role of glial cells in neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s Disease. Projects are investigating the molecular regulation of innate immune inflammatory responses in brain glial cells, as well as the impact of exposure to environmental neurotoxins on the etiology of neurodegenerative disease. Additionally, we are examining how infection with neurotropic viruses triggers inflammation and protein aggregation in neurodegenerative disorders. Transgenic models and high content fluorescence imaging are central techniques used in our laboratory to study these phenomena.

research project

Neuroinflammation in Parkinson's Disease

Innate immune signaling in glial cells results in production of neurotoxic inflammatory factors that are associated with neuronal injury and protein aggregation in Parkinson’s disease. We are using transgenic animal models and primary cultures of microglia and astrocytes to understand the molecular pathways regulating this inflammatory phenotype.

research project

Neurotoxicity of Heavy Metals

Neurotoxic levels of heavy metals such as manganese correlate with cognitive and behavioral impairment in both adults and children. This increases the risk for disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. Using transgenic approaches to inhibit inflammatory signaling in glial cells, we are studying the role of neuroinflammation in responses to neurotoxic heavy metals.

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research project

Viral Models of Neurodegeneration

Viral infection can affect the central nervous system, increasing the risk for neurological disease. Projects are exploring environmental factors modulating the capacity of selected viruses to cause inflammatory injury to the brain, including such agents as H1N1 influenza, Western Equine Encephalitis Virus and SARS-CoV-2.

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research project

Molecular Regulation of Neuroinflammation

Studies are examining the molecular pharmacology of small molecule regulators of inflammation in glial cells that interact with nuclear receptors to inhibit inflammatory signaling through the NF-κB pathway.


Infection with mosquito-borne alphavirus induces selective loss of dopaminergic neurons, inflammation and widespread protein aggregation. 

Bantle CM, Phillips AT, Smeyne RJ, Rocha SM, Olson KE, Tjalkens RB.
NPJ Parkinsons Dis. 2019 Sep 13;5:20. doi: 10.1038/s41531-019-0090-8. eCollection 2019.


more publications

Lab members at Canvas Stadium in 2018

Front Range Neuroscience Meeting 2021: Lab presenters

Dr. Tjalkens with graduate student Savannah Rocha at the 2019 Mountain West Society of Toxicology Conference hosted by CSU chapter

Dr Tjalkens and Casey in BSL3 training

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