Seen here with flowers presented by Spring 2003 honors class






Robert M. Grossfeld, Ph.D.

Professor- Biology, Physiology, Behavioral Biology






University of Wisconsin-Madison




Stanford University School of Medicine





Professional Experience:


Research Fellow, Instructor, Neurobiology Dept., Harvard Medical School


Assistant Professor of Neurobiology and Behavior, Cornell University


Research Scientist, VA Hospital, Sepulveda, CA


Visiting Faculty, Zoology Department, University of Texas-Austin


Assistant, Associate, Full Professor of Biology, North Carolina State Univ.




Research Interests:

(1) Neuron-glia intercellular chemical signaling in the nervous system--role in function, development, regeneration. 

(2) Chemical signaling between human mesenhymal stem cells--affect on differentiation to bone or cartilage. 

(1) Neuron-glia intercellular chemical signaling in the nervous system

Glial cells greatly outnumber neurons in mammalian brain and spinal cord.  Once thought to be passive elements of the nervous system (hence the name "glia" or "glue"), they are now known to be active and equal partners with neurons, regulating neuronal function, development and regeneration and brain blood flow.  Most studies of neuron-glia interactions have focused on synapses, where one neuron interacts with another via neurotransmitter chemicals.  We are testing whether similar interactions occur at regions of the nervous system devoid of synapses, i.e. in peripheral and central nerves, and whether they impact the development and regeneration of nerve fibers.  Whereas neurons typically signal via electrical impulses and release of neurotransmitters, glial cell responses involve altered intracellular calcium and release of gliotransmitters.  The energy-producing molecule ATP and the common amino acid glutamate are considered to be major transmitters by which neurons and glia signal each other.  We are using optical imaging and electrical stimulation to investigate when and how these compounds act as intercellular signals in isolated rodent optic and sciatic nerves, accessible central and peripheral nervous system models. These studies have potential implications not only for understanding normal neurological function but also pathology of neurodegenerative diseases, as these compounds are damaging to nerve cells and glia when present at excessively high concentrations in extracellular fluid during injury or stroke, for example.

(2) Chemical signaling between human mesenchymal stem cells.  Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) possess the potential to differentiate into a variety of connective tissue cells as well as neural cells.  Like glial cells, they can respond to diffusible chemicals such as ATP with increased cytoplasmic calcium that triggers changes in differentiation state or function.  In collaboration with the laboratory of Dr. Elizabeth Loboa (, we are investigating MSCs harvested from adult human adipose tissue to determine whether and how their responsiveness to small chemical transmitters might influence their differentiation to form bone or cartilage tissue.     


Selected Publications:

McCullen, S.D., McQuilling, J.P., Grossfeld, R.M., Lubischer, J.L., Clarke, L.I. and Loboa, E.G. (2010) Application of low-frequency alternating current electric fields via interdigitated electrodes: Effects on cellular viability, cytoplasmic calcium, and osteogenic differentiation of human adipose-derived stem cells.  Tissue Engineering, Pt C

Gafurov B., Urazaev A.K., Grossfeld R.M., Lieberman E.M. (2001) N- acetylaspartylglutamate (NAAG) is the probable mediator of axon-to-glia signaling in the crayfish medial giant nerve fiber. Neuroscience 106(1): 227-235.

Urazaev A.K., Grossfeld R.M., Fletcher P.L., Speno H., Gafurov B.S., Buttram J.G., Lieberman E.M. (2001) Synthesis and release of N-acetylaspartylglutamate (NAAG) by crayfish nerve fibers: Implications for axon-glia signaling. Neuroscience 106(1): 237-247

Kane, L.S., Buttram, J.G. Jr., Urazaev, A.K., Lieberman, E.M. and Grossfeld, R.M. (2000) Uptake and metabolism of  glutamate at non-synaptic regions of crayfish central nerve fibers: Implications for axon-glia signaling.  Neuroscience 97: 601-609.

Rathinam, A.V., Chen, T.T. and Grossfeld, R.M. (2000) Cloning and sequence analysis of a cDNA for an inducible 70 kDa heat shock protein [HSP70] of the American oyster [Crassostrea virginica].  DNA Sequence 11:261-264.

Sheller, R.A., Smyers, M.E., Grossfeld, R.M., Ballinger, M.L. and Bittner, G.D. (1998) Heat-shock proteins in axons: High constitutive levels and transfer of inducible isoforms from glia.  Journal of Comparative Neurology 396:1-11.

Grossfeld, R.M., Hargittai, P.T. and Lieberman, E.M.  Glutamate-mediated neuron-glia signaling in invertebrates and vertebrates (1995) In: Neuron-Glia Interrelation in Phylogeny Ed. A. Vernadakis and B.I. Roots, Humana Press, Totowa, NJ, pp 129-159.

Tirard, C.T., Grossfeld, R.M., Volety, A.K., and Chu, F.-L.E. (1995) Heat shock proteins of the oyster parasite Perkinsus marinus. Diseases of Aquatic Organisms 22:147-151.

Tirard, C. T., Grossfeld, R. M., Levine, J. and Kennedy-Stoskopf, S. (1995) Effect of hyperthermia in vitro on stress protein synthesis and accumulation in oyster haemocytes. Fish and Shellfish Immunology 5:9-25.

Lieberman, E., Hargittai, P. and Grossfeld, R. (1994) Electrophysiological and metabolic interactions between axons and glia in crayfish and squid. Progress in Neurobiology 44:333-376.

Xue, Z.-y. and Grossfeld, R. M. (1993) Stress protein synthesis and accumulation after traumatic injury of crayfish CNS. Neurochemical Research 18:209-218.

Rochelle, J. M., Grossfeld, R. M., Bunting, D. L., Tytell, M., Dwyer, B. E. and Xue, Z.-Y. (1991) Stress protein synthesis by crayfish CNS tissue in vitro. Neurochemical Research 16:533-542.

Grossfeld, R. M. (1991) Axon-glia exchange of macromolecules. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 633:318-330.

Grossfeld, R. M., Klinge, M. A., Lieberman, E. M. and Stewart, L. C. (1988) Axon-glia transfer of a protein and a carbohydrate. Glia 1:292-300.

Grossfeld, R. M. and Hansen, D. B. (1987) Long-term persistence of GAD activity in injured crayfish CNS tissue. Neurochemical Research 12:977-984. 

Grossfeld, R.M., Yancey, S.W. and Baxter, C.F. (1984) Inhibitors of crayfish glutamic acid decarboxylase.  Neurochem. Res. 9: 947-963.

Grossfeld, R.M. and Shooter, E.M. (1971) A study of the changes in protein composition of mouse brain during ontogenetic development. J. Neurochem. 18: 2265-2277.

Kravitz, E.A., Slater, C.R., Takahashi, K., Bownds, M.D. and Grossfeld, R.M. (1970) Excitatory transmission in invertebrates: Glutamate as a potential neuromuscular transmitter compound.  In: Excitatory Synaptic Mechanisms.  P. Anderson and J.K.S. Jansen, eds.  Universitets Forlaget Pub. pp. 85-93.

Teaching Interests:

(1) Advanced Physiology; (2) Spinal Cord Injury & Repair

(1)   Advanced physiology (PHY/ZO 503-504)- a two-semester graduate/senior lecture/discussion course on integrative molecular, cellular and systems physiology.  The first semester covers membrane transport, endocrine control, excitable and contractile cell function, networks of excitable cells, and cardiovascular function.  The second semester covers Respiratory, Renal, and Digestive functions.  The courses emphasize analysis, understanding and integration of data and application of principles to novel situations. 

(2)   Spinal Cord & Brain Injury & Repair-Seminar course offered to senior undergraduate students and graduate students.  The course emphasizes broad aspects of issues in neuroscience, including scientific findings and novel approaches to repair of spinal cord and brain, and relevant political, social, and human issues. 

Perspective Fall 2003 (Cover)
In The Realm of Possibility


 Teaching, Mentoring Awards:

  Elected to North Carolina State University Academy of Outstanding Teachers
  Elected to Order of Omega for teaching, mentoring activities
  Pan-Hellenic Outstanding Teacher Award, N.C.S.U.
  2007 College of Agriculture & Life Sciences Outstanding Graduate Instructor
  Faculty Scholar for 2012 Class of Park Scholars (