Smith Laboratory

High-Throughput Addiction NeuroDiscovery Lab

Dr. Alexander Smith (Alex) got his PhD in Neuroscience in 2015 at MUSC, where he was mentored by Dr. Peter Kalivas. Alex then went to Mount Sinai in NYC and completed postdoctoral training in the lab of Dr. Paul Kenny. He then came back to MUSC to join the faculty in December of 2021.

Alex’s graduate work in the Kalivas Lab primarily used rat models of cued reinstatement, and protein biochemistry to examine the contributions of two extracellular matrix remodeling enzymes, MMP2 and MMP9, to synaptic plasticity underlying cocaine relapse.

During his postdoctoral training, Alex primarily used mouse models, and shifted to a much more systems-oriented approach, using opto- and chemo-genetics to examine the role of specific neural circuits to addictive-like behaviors. While in the Kenny Lab, Alex also became an expert in brain clearing and using light-sheet microscopy to examine protein expression (e.g. c-Fos), or projection mapping/quantification, in the intact brain. Alex’s postdoctoral work also shifted from protein-level biochemistry to RNA analysis, using qPCR, RNAscope, and single-nuclei sequencing.

Alex’s independent lab will use a combination of these techniques, using high-throughput methods like brain clearing and single-nuclei sequencing to identify novel neuroadaptations that accompany relapse, and using protein-level biochemistry and small-molecule pharmacology to examine the precise mechanisms of these adaptations. The ultimate goal for the lab is to identify novel targets that can be targeted to reduce relapse in clinical populations.

For more information on the work we do in our lab: