Dr. Shernaz Bamji


Photo of Dr. Shernaz Bamji

Dr. Shernaz Bamji is a Professor in the Department of Cellular and Physiological Sciences at the University of British Columbia (UBC) and the Associate Director of the Djavad Mowafaghian Center for Brain Health. Dr. Bamji has over 25 years of experience as a neuroscientist, studying how cells in the nervous system are formed, function and eliminated in both healthy and disease conditions. She earned a Ph.D. from McGill University, and then went on to do her postdoctoral training at the University of California, San Francisco. Her research is predominantly focused on the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying brain development and function and how these processes are altered in disorders of the nervous system, such as multiple sclerosis (MS).

Learn more abour Dr. Bamji

What is the focus of your research? How did you become interested in MS research?

My lab has largely focused on the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying the development and function of brain connectivity. For the past 10 years we have been focusing our research on a family of enzymes in the brain that adds fatty acids to proteins. We have shown that these enzymes play a very important role in brain connectivity. We recently made a remarkable finding that one of these enzymes is very important in the development of a specific type of oligodendrocyte, a cell in the central nervous system (i.e., brain and spinal cord), that is important for the formation of the protective covering of nerve fibres called myelin. This caused a great deal of excitement in the lab as we immediately saw the implications for MS in which repair of injured myelin (remyelination) of nerve fibres is compromised. Our current research aims to determine whether an enzyme that modifies proteins within the myelin (called ZDHHC9), can improve remyelination. We will increase the function of this enzyme in mice with injured myelin and determine whether this improves the remyelination process. We will also determine how this enzyme functions  and how it is normally expressed in areas surrounding MS lesions. Together, we hope to identify novel targets to generate therapeutics to improve remyelination.

How important is the support from MS Canada in your research?

The MS Canada Catalyst grant is exceedingly important to support new and exciting avenues of research with application for MS. Without the grant support, researchers like us would not be able to test novel approaches to slowing or even reversing the progression of this disease.