Biomedical Sciences & Pathobiology Faculty

Michelle H. Theus, PhD

Associate Professor
Molecular and Cellular Neurobiology
Department of Biomedical Sciences & Pathobiology
Translational Biology, Medicine, and Health Graduate Program

Current Funding

  • NIH R01 Novel Cellular and Molecular Regulation of Collateral Remodeling in Ischemic Stroke
    Coronary and cerebrovascular disease remains the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the US, afflicting more than 1.8 million Americans each year. Ischemic injury following vascular occlusion is often dictated by the extent and remodeling of pre-existing pial collateral or "by-pass" vessels (arterogenesis). Our overall goal is to greatly improve our mechanistic understanding of collateral remodeling and how this impacts the microenvironment in which neurons repair themselves. Novel insights into this important adaptive response to vascular obstruction will help advance collaterotherapeutics as a treatment options for neurorestoration after ischemic stroke.

    Grant duration: 9/2019 - 6/2024
  • NIH R01 Mechanisms Regulating Cerebral Arteriogenesis and Neurorestoration
    Promoting vascular remodeling has emerged as a potential therapeutic approach for neurorestorative therapy. Cerebral vascular trauma leads to inadequate cerebral blood flow which potentiates neuronal cell loss resulting in motor and cognitive deficits in models of brain injury. Endothelial cells lining the blood vessels actively respond to tissue trauma. Our novel findings demonstrate, cell-to-cell contact proteins called Eph receptor tyrosine kinases, and their ephrin ligand(s), are present on cerebral arteriole endothelial cells and play a central role in limiting arteriogenesis in the murine brain following injury.

    Grant duration: 4/2016 - 3/2021
  • Virginia Tech leads $2.6 million study of brain trauma, epilepsy connection
    Virginia Tech is launching a $2.6 million study to determine if traumatic brain injuries can cause changes within the brain that lead to epilepsy. Funded by the nonprofit Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy (CURE) and the U.S. Department of Defense, the three-year study seeks to identify the root causes behind why a person may develop epilepsy after he or she has suffered brain trauma, including sports-related concussion and focal contusion injuries. Five Virginia Tech groups are heading the study: The School of Neuroscience, part of the College of Science; the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute (VTCRI); the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine; and the College of Engineering. All of the research leaders have wide experience in brain injury and neurological disorders; Michelle Theus will study the role of glial-stem cell interactions in post-traumatic epilepsy across various types of head traumas.


  • 2006
    PhD, NeuroPathology and Laboratory Medicine
    Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC)
    Charleston, SC
  • 1999
    MT (ASCP) Board Certification
    Clinical Laboratory Scientist Training Program
    University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Research Center
    Houston, TX
  • 1998
    BS, Clinical Laboratory Sciences, Cum Laude,
    Chemistry and Microbiology minors
    University of Ohio
    Athens, OH

Board Certifications

  • 2000
    Histocompatibility Technical Specialist (ASHI)
  • 1999
    Medical Technologist (MT) (ASCP)
  • 1999
    Clinical Laboratory Scientist (National Crediting Agency)

Research Focus

click for larger image

Recent scientific discoveries have placed stem cell therapy in the spotlight for tissue repair and have raised enthusiasm amongst regenerative medicine scientists. The concept of "self-healing" using the patient's own nature stem cells is an exciting part of translational research since these cells represent a local source for cellular replacement.

The goal of my research is to understand how these innate stem cells contribute to adult central nervous system (CNS) repair following traumatic injury, an area that has very limited regenerative potential. Using a gene-targeted approach, we have identified a novel family of inhibitory proteins called Eph receptors that restrict the growth potential of adult-derived stem cells. Moreover, we hypothesize that the presence of these inhibitory molecules on circulating stem cells may limit the remodeling of the vascular network after CNS damage. Because the extent of acute cell loss and long-term functional recovery is often dictated by local blood supply, vascular repair represents an important primary target for stem cell therapy. To that end, we are currently investigating the effects of blocking Eph receptors, using innovative gene-targeted and systems approaches in combination with vessel painting, on promoting revascularization after CNS injury. These investigations overall are aimed at identifying effective, safe and feasible drug targets that promote stem cell therapy for clinical applications in CNS disorders such as ischemic stroke and traumatic brain injuries.


View publications on Michelle Theus' PubMed profile.

Professional Experience

  • 2018 – Present
    Associate Professor, Neuroscience
    Biomedical Sciences & Pathobiology
    Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine
    Virginia Tech
    Blacksburg, VA
  • 2012 – 2018
    Assistant Professor, Neuroscience
    Biomedical Sciences & Pathobiology
    Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine
    Virginia Tech
    Blacksburg, VA
  • 2006 – 2012
    Postdoctoral Scholar
    Department of Neurosurgery
    The Miami Project to Cure Spinal Cord Paralysis
    University of Miami
    Miami, FL
  • 1999 – 2001
    Histocompatibility Technical Specialist, ASHI certified
    Cleveland Clinic Organ Transplant Center
    Cleveland, OH
  • 1998 – 1999
    Medical Technologist, Phlebotomist, ASCP certified
    M.D. Anderson Cancer Research Center
    Houston, TX

Professional Memberships

  • American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • Society for Neuroscience
  • American Society of Histocompatibility and Immunogenetics
  • American Society of Clinical Laboratory Science
  • American Society of Clinical Pathologists