Associate Professor of Physiology
Spinal Cord & Brain Injury Research Center (SCoBIRC)
University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY
Alexander ‘Sasha’ Rabchevsky is currently a tenured Associate Professor of Physiology at the University Kentucky in Lexington, KY and a faculty member of the Spinal Cord & Brain Injury Research Center (SCoBIRC). Sasha is, himself, paralyzed from the chest down as the result of a motorcycle accident in 1985 which fractured his sixth thoracic vertebrae rendering him a complete T5 paraplegic. After graduating from Hampden-Sydney College, VA only a semester behind his original ’87 class, and working as a technician at the NIH, he was accepted into the University of Florida Neuroscience graduate program in 1990, defending his doctoral thesis evaluating the role of activated microglia in spinal cord regeneration in 1995. He then moved to France where he undertook his first postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Paris, XII in INSERM Unite 421 studying neuroimmunology in the context of autoimmune diseases, as well as employing transgenic mice and molecular biology to study the role of TGF-alpha in astrogliosis.
Since 1997, Sasha has been based in Lexington where he investigates multiple therapeutic approaches to treat experimental spinal cord injury (SCI). As a postdoctoral scholar, he helped develop a standardized contusion SCI model (Infinite Horizon) in rats to examine how growth factors and/or pharmacological agents promote tissue sparing and recovery of hindlimb function. Since his appointment as Assistant Professor of Physiology in 2002, Sasha has been focused on alleviating both hindlimb locomotor and/or autonomic dysfunction following SCI in rats employing pharmacological treatments and/or gene therapy to over-express certain growth factors near injury sites. His lab has been funded recently to study the patterns of bioenergetic damage to mitochondria after contusion SCI in order to target them, specifically, with pharmacological agents that maintain their integrity and minimize secondary tissue damage for enhanced functional recovery. More importantly, he has gained international recognition as a leading expert in autonomic pathophysiology following SCI, particularly the abnormal neural circuitry that contributes to the development of a hypertensive condition termed autonomic dysreflexia, which occurs in the majority of SCI individuals, including him.
Autonomic dysreflexia is a condition that develops after severe SCI above high thoracic levels which can lead to potentially life-threatening hypertension. Using a rodent model of this pathophysiological condition, triggered by noxious colorectal distension, Sasha has evaluated the contributions of both primary afferent and propriospinal pathway plasticity to the development of autonomic dysreflexia, with cardiophysiology being monitored telemetrically. His lab is currently conducting translational pharmaceutical research to test whether blocking excitatory neurotransmission with neuropathic pain medications (i.e., gabapentinoids) mitigates the incidence and severity of this secondary complication after SCI, along with muscle spasticity, both of which are triggered by noxious stimulation.