Andrew Boreland

Cell Biology and Neuroscience

Advisor: Dr. Zhiping Pang and Dr. Peng Jiang

Rutgers University
5th Year Biotech Program Student

Andrew James Boreland completed his undergraduate studies at Rutgers University where he graduated with High Honors in Genetics, B.A. During his undergraduate studies, Andrew conducted Melanoma skin cancer research in the lab of Dr. Suzie Chen at the Susan Lehman Cullman Laboratory for Cancer Research, Rutgers University. During this time, he investigated the underlying mechanisms of metabotropic glutamate receptor 1 (GRM1) activation by its ligand glutamate. This research experience enriched Andrew’s desire to pursue graduate education. Most of all however, Andrew’s inspiration for science comes from a severe traumatic brain injury he incurred when he was sixteen years old. He had lost a cubic centimeter of his brain in the left frontal lobe and would either wake up from the coma “normal,” or as the doctor explained to his parents, “His body will be fine, but the Andrew that you know may not be there.” No one could be certain. Despite great challenges in recovering from this traumatic injury, Andrew developed a burning passion for neuroscience and a desire to understand mechanisms underlying neuropathology.

At Rutgers University, Andrew joined the labs of Dr. Zhiping Pang at the Child Health Institute of New Jersey and Dr. Peng Jiang at Rutgers Nelson Biology laboratory. His doctoral research is directed towards the development and manipulation of human induced pluripotent stem cell (hiPSC) derived neural models for interrogating neuro-immune interactions and the inflammatory basis for neurodegenerative disease. To do this he uses two human stem-cell derived model systems, with ethanol or HIV-1 insult, to elucidate mechanisms of neuro-immune dysregulation among microglia, astrocytes, and neurons that may contribute to neurodegeneration seen in patients with alcohol-related dementia and HIV-related dementia.

In the first model, Andrew uses hiPSC that he directs to become neural cells including neurons, astrocytes, and microglia. These cells are then grown together in a tri-culture, matured, and subjected to a 7-day chronic intermittent ethanol treatment to mimic individuals with alcohol use disorders (AUDs). Ethanol treatment was found to activate innate immunity pathways including the NLRP3 (NOD-, LRR- and pyrin domain-containing protein 3) inflammasome pathway and caused elevated expression of proinflammatory genes. Andrew and his research team are currently exploring the functional consequences of this inflammatory stimulation in microglia and how that ultimately may affect neuronal health and function.   

In the second model, Andrew makes hiPSC-derived microglia and infects them with replication competent HIV-1 to study how the virus dysregulates microglia function. In collaboration with the labs of Dr. Arnold Rabson and Dr. Ron Hart, he has found that the microglia cells exhibit a robust and sustained activation of interferon stimulated genes resulting in a proinflammatory phenotype with dysregulated cytokine/chemokine production. Furthermore, Andrew has added these microglia to stem cell-derived cerebral organoids to study how HIV-1 may perturb neural-immune interactions and affect neuronal health. Cerebral organoids are 3-dimensional neural cultures derived from stem cells that recapitulate aspects of neural development and tissue architecture. Using these microglia containing cerebral organoids, Andrew hopes to discover inflammatory underpinnings for neurodegeneration seen in patients with HIV-associated neurocognitive disorder (HAND). Finding similar underlying features of neurodegeneration-related immune dysregulation among different human stem cell derived inflammation models will facilitate clinical biomarker discovery and new therapeutic interventions.

During his studies Andrew received several fellowships and awards including the Molecular Biosciences Excellence Award, the NIH NIGMS-funded Rutgers/UMDNJ T32 Biotechnology Training Program Fellowship, the Gordon J. and Ruth M. Macdonald Foundation Award, and the NIH NCATS-funded NJ ACTS TL1 Clinical and Translational Science Training Program Fellowship. Andrew further enriched his training by participating in the SciPhD Certificate Program, The Business of Science for Scientists. Together, these training opportunities provided him with a strong pathway toward scientific independence.

In addition to these programs, Andrew is part of multidisciplinary team developing a novel therapeutic device for peripheral nerve injury. In partnership with two RWJMS MS2 medical students, Dr. Pang from Rutgers Neuroscience and Cell Biology, and Dr. Murthy from Rutgers Biomaterials, the team was recently awarded the NJ Health Foundation grant as well as the NJ Health Advance grant to fund the development and commercialization of their cellularized nerve regeneration graft (U.S. patent application no. 63/249,353). Further, Andrew’s experience from the Rutgers Biotechnology Training Program greatly enhanced his experience in the Rutgers National Science Foundation-funded Innovation-Corps. In his role as an entrepreneurial lead, Andrew and his two medical student teammates were awarded $2,500 to investigate product-market fit of research-focused technology related to their device. They performed 25+ customer discovery interviews over a 5-week training program to determine readiness and market of technologies related to peripheral nerve injury repair. The team plans to fully patent their technology and pursue licensing or biotech startup to commercialize the device and treat this currently unmet medical need in peripheral nerve injury repair.

During his time in graduate school, mentorship and team science have been a focus of Andrew's research strategy. For example, Andrew has mentored a Rutgers Honors College undergraduate student, Yara Abbo, for three years culminating in an honors thesis for the Cell Biology and Neuroscience program that she was awarded Highest Honors and the Henry Rutgers Scholar Award. He has also contributed towards the training and mentorship of four junior PhD students from the Biomedical Engineering, Neuroscience, and Molecular Biosciences programs respectively, two full-time research assistants, and two MS2 medical students in neuroscience focused cell culture techniques, high-resolution imaging, electrophysiology, and other assays. Aside from his main thesis research, Andrew has been extremely collaborative across various departments at Rutgers allowing him to contribute as a co-author on five publications to date in journals Stem Cell Reports, Micromachines, Journal of Microelectromechanical Systems, Alcohol, and Nature Communications. Andrew believes these contributions were made possible by the supplemental training he has received from the biotech training program in biomedical engineering, microfabrication, and technology commercialization.

Andrew plans on graduating with a PhD in Cell and Developmental Biology and Certificate in Clinical and Translational Science, in 2023. His long-term goal is to become an independent scientist using human stem-cell technologies to investigate the inflammatory basis of neurodegenerative disease and to develop next-generation therapeutic interventions. This goal is the result of his brain injury, cultivating research career to date, and an insatiable curiosity for science.