Joshua Gross, a West Virginia University (WVU) doctoral candidate in the WVU School of Medicine, has been awarded a National Institute of Health (NIH) grant for his research focusing on a protein that influences the brain’s response to psychostimulant drugs.
“My research focuses on the role of a protein called Regulator of G Protein Signaling-12 (RGS12) in modulating the biochemical and behavioral responses to psychostimulant drugs such as amphetamine and cocaine,” explained Gross. “Specifically, I’ve focused on elucidating the effect of RGS12 on dopamine neurotransmission in the brain reward system, the area of the brain where all drugs of abuse act. We hope that my research will identify novel mechanisms and drug targets for designing therapeutic strategies that can ameliorate psychostimulant drug abuse.”
This Lancaster, Pennsylvania, native was awarded a three-year grantfrom the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a division of NIH with the mission “to advance science on the causes and consequences of drug use and addiction and to apply that knowledge to improve individual and public health.” Gross was both grateful and encouraged by NIDA’s interest in his research and its willingness to support scientific efforts to reveal how psychostimulants work in the brain.
“It was very gratifying to know that NIDA viewed my training and development as a scientist as a worthwhile investment,” said Gross. “Being fully aware of how difficult it can be to obtain grants like these, I was equal parts surprised and pleased upon hearing that I got it.”
Gross decided on WVU after being accepted to the WVU Summer Undergraduate Research Internship (SURI) program offered through the Center for Neuroscience. “I was assigned work in the Siderovski lab and I so thoroughly enjoyed my experience that I chose to come back to WVU for my Ph.D,” Gross explained. He has continued working with David Siderovski, Chair of WVU’s Physiology, Pharmacology, and Neuroscience Department, and Vincent Setola, Director of WVU’s Laboratory of Neuroscience and Genetics of Substance Abuse as his advisors for his current research. “Ultimately, we hope that our research will provide a deeper understanding of the mechanisms by which psychostimulant drugs function in the brain and lead to new therapeutic strategies to ameliorate addiction to these substances,” said Gross.
Gross recently married his high school sweetheart, who is a physician’s assistant working at Mon General in Morgantown. He enjoys hockey, music, and cooking as well as playing with his two cats at home. After completing his degree, Gross said that he plans to “take a post-doctoral position in a basic science laboratory interested in studying how monoamine (e.g., dopamine, serotonin) neurotransmission affects the etiology and treatment of psychiatric diseases such as addiction, schizophrenia, and depression.” Gross eventually hopes to obtain a faculty position at an academic institution and run his own lab.
For more information about Joshua Gross and his research, click here.