Dr. Patrick Nahirney

Dr. Patrick Nahirney
Associate Professor
Division of Medical Sciences

BSc (Wash St), MSc (UBC), PhD (UBC)

Office: Medical Sciences Building, room 220

Dr. Patrick Nahirney is an Associate Professor of Anatomy and Histology in the Division of Medical Sciences. He teaches human gross anatomy and histology to first and second year undergraduate medical students in the Island Medical Program and conducts research on neurogenesis and neuromuscular disease. He has a particular interest in providing a structural and molecular framework that relates to a number of human diseases including Alzheimer's disease, stress-induced memory loss, Nemaline myopathy, Duchenne muscular dystrophy as well as the development of novel strategies for muscle and nerve tissue engineering and regeneration of injured tissues.

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"The goal is to understand how stressors and neurological diseases impact learning and memory processes."


Synapses in the brain play key roles in neuronal communication and altered synaptic function is believed to underlie a number of neurological disorders.

It has long been known that the hippocampus plays a role in learning and memory – it has become of extreme interest since changes in pyramidal, granule, interneuronal and glial cells occur in response to stressors, diseases and experimental treatments, and correspond to changes in spatial learning and memory.

Surprisingly, however, data is lacking on the specific subcellular structure of synapses in the hippocampus, and the changes that occur at the level of the synapse to various stressors and treatments.

This research examines how maternal stress and ethanol affect in utero and postnatal development of synapses in the hippocampus. Clinical evidence in humans suggests a strong link between prenatal stress and childhood disorders such as autism, fetal alcohol syndrome and schizophrenia.

To further these studies, my research will also test how exercise can reverse the effects caused by these stressors during postnatal life. Data from this research will shed new light on how prenatal stress affects synapses made by hippocampal neurons and will provide a testable model system to ascertain the effectiveness of treatments for these neurological disorders.

Shown above is a high magnification transmission electron micrograph of a branched spine making two synaptic contacts (*) with presynaptic terminals. The spine and dendrite of the postsynaptic granule cell neuron have been pseudocolored red. Vesicles containing neurotransmitters fill the presynaptic terminals. x50000.

Mito: mitochondria, MT: microtubule, Pre: Presynaptic terminal, SER: Smooth endoplasmic reticulum

Research articles
  1. Bilkey J, Nahirney PC, Delaney KR. Time and exposure to serotonin affect releasability of recycled vesicles at crayfish claw opener muscle synapses. Synapse. 2019 Oct 1:e22136. doi: 10.1002/syn.22136. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 31574172.
  2. Peñasco S, Rico-Barrio I, Puente N, Fontaine CJ, Ramos A, Reguero L, Gerrikagoitia I, de Fonseca FR, Suarez J, Barrondo S, Aretxabala X, García Del Caño G, Sallés J, Elezgarai I, Nahirney PC, Christie BR, Grandes P. Intermittent  ethanol exposure during adolescence impairs cannabinoid type 1 receptor-dependent long-term depression and recognition memory in adult mice. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2019 Sep 30. doi: 10.1038/s41386-019-0530-5. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 31569197.
  3. Trivino-Paredes JS, Nahirney PC, Pinar C, Grandes P, Christie BR. Acute slice preparation for electrophysiology increases spine numbers equivalently in the male and female juvenile hippocampus: a DiI labeling study. J Neurophysiol. 2019  Sep 1;122(3):958-969. doi: 10.1152/jn.00332.2019. Epub 2019 Jul 3. PubMed PMID: 31268808; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6766732.
  4. Peñasco S, Rico-Barrio I, Puente N, Gómez-Urquijo SM, Fontaine CJ, Egaña-Huguet J, Achicallende S, Ramos A, Reguero L, Elezgarai I, Nahirney PC, Christie BR, Grandes P. Endocannabinoid long-term depression revealed at medial perforant path excitatory synapses in the dentate gyrus. Neuropharmacology. 2019 Jul 15;153:32-40. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2019.04.020. Epub 2019 Apr 22. PubMed PMID: 31022405.
  5. Bonilla-Del Rίo I, Puente N, Peñasco S, Rico I, Gutiérrez-Rodrίguez A, Elezgarai I, Ramos A, Reguero L, Gerrikagoitia I, Christie BR, Nahirney P, Grandes P. Adolescent ethanol intake alters cannabinoid type-1 receptor localization in astrocytes of the adult mouse hippocampus. Addict Biol. 2019 Mar;24(2):182-192. doi: 10.1111/adb.12585. Epub 2017 Nov 23. PubMed PMID: 29168269.
  6. Puente, N., I. Bonilla-Del Río, S. Achicallende, P.C. Nahirney and P. Grandes  2019  High-resolution immunoelectron microscopy techniques for revealing distinct subcellular type 1 cannabinoid receptor domains in brain.  Bio-protocol, Jan 20, 9(2): e3145. doi: 10.21769/BioProtoc.3145.
  7. Bonilla-Del Rio, I., N. Puente, S. Penasco, I. Rico, A. Gutierrez-Rodriguez, I. Elezgarai, A. Ramos, L. Reguero, I. Gerrikagoitia, B.R. Christie, P. Nahirney and P. Grandes 2017 Adolescent ethanol intake alters the cannabinoid CB1 receptor localization in astrocytes of the adult mouse hippocampus. Addiction Biology, epub Nov 23. PUBMED
  8. Nahirney, P.C., P. Reeson and C. E. Brown 2016 Ultrastructural analysis of blood-brain barrier breakdown in the peri-infarct zone in young adult and aged mice.  Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism, 36(2): 413-25. PUBMED.
  9. Reeson, P., K. Tennant, K. Gerrow, J. Wang, S. Novak, K. Thompson, K. Lockheart, A. Holmes, P.C. Nahirney and C.E. Brown 2015 Delayed inhibition of VEGF signaling after stroke attenuates blood-brain barrier breakdown and improves functional recovery in a comorbidity-dependent manner.  Journal of Neuroscience, Apr 1; 35(13):5128-43 (cover image). PUBMED
  10. Lindsay, F.J., A.R. Patten, B.R. Christie and P.C. Nahirney 2014 Prenatal ethanol exposure reduces pyramidal cell size and postsynaptic density length in the CA1 region of the hippocampus in adolescent rats. FASEB Journal. Vol 21;726.2.
  11. Novak, S.W., M. Vetrici, C.R. King, J. Boots, B.R. Christie and P.C. Nahirney 2013 Developmental changes to dentate gyrus PSD-95 expression and dendritic spine ultrastructure in a mouse model of Fragile X Syndrome. Society of Neuroscience Vol. 43.
  12. Nahirney, P.C., P. Reeson, C.E. Brown 2013 Ultrastructral analysis of neurons, glia and capillaries in the peri-infarct zone of an ischemic stroke. FASEB J. Vol 20; 533.15.
  13. Brown, C.E., D. Sweetnam, M. Beange, P.C. Nahirney and R. Nashmi 2012 α4* nicotinic acetylcholine receptors modulate experience-based cortical depression in the adult mouse somatosensory cortex. Journal of Neuroscience, 32(4): 1207-19. PUBMED
  14. Samson J., I. Piscopo, A. Yampolski, P.C. Nahirney, A. Parpas, A. Aggarwal, R. Saleh and C.M. Drain 2011 fabrication of size-tunable metallic nanoparticles using plasmid DNA as a biomolecular reactor. Nanomaterials, 1(1):64-78.
  15. Samson J., P.C. Nahirney, D.M. Drain and I. Piscopo 2011 Simplifying electron diffraction pattern identification of mixed-material nanoparticles. Microscopy Today, 19:38-41
  16. Nowak, S.J., P.C. Nahirney, K. Hadjantonakis and M.K. Baylies. 2009 Live imaging reveals actin cytoskeleton remodeling is essential for mammalian myoblast fusion. Journal of Cell Science, 122: 3282-93. PUBMED
  17. Samson, J., A. Varotto, P.C. Nahirney, A. Toschi, I. Piscopo and C.M. Drain. 2009 Fabrication of metal nanoparticles using toroidal plasmid DNA as a sacrificial mold. ACS Nano, 3(2): 339-344. PUBMED
  18. Nahirney, P.C., J.G. Forbes, H.D. Morris, S.C. Chock and K. Wang. 2006 What the buzz was all about: Superfast song muscles rattle the tymbals of male cicadas. FASEB Journal, 20:2017-26. PUBMED
  19. Nahirney, P.C., D.A. Fischman and K. Wang 2006 Myosin flares and actin leptomeres as myofibril assembly/disassembly intermediates in sonic muscle fibers. Cell and Tissue Research, 324: 127-138. PUBMED
  20. Xaymardan, M.,L. Tang, L. Zagreda, B. Pallante, J. Zheng, J.L. Chazen, A. Chin, I. Duignan, P. Nahirney, S. Rafii, T. Mikawa and J.M. Edelberg 2004 Platelet-derived growth factor-AB promotes the generation of adult bone marrow-derived cardiac myocytes. Circulation Research, 94: e39-e45. PUBMED
  21. Lewis, M.K., P.C. Nahirney, V. Chen, B.B. Adhikari, J. Wright, M.K. Reedy, A.H. Bass and K. Wang 2003 Concentric intermediate filament lattice links to specialized Z-band junctional complexes in sonic muscle fibers of the type I male midshipman fish. Journal of Structural Biology, 143(1): 56-71. Cover illustration. PUBMED
  22. Nahirney, P.C., T. Mikawa and D.A. Fischman 2003 Evidence for an extracellular matrix bridge guiding proepicardial cell migration to the myocardium of chick embryos. Developmental Dynamics, 227: 511-523. Cover illustration. PUBMED
  23. *Zippin, J.H., Y. *Chen, *P. Nahirney, M. Kamenetsky, M.S. Wuttke, D.A. Fischman, L.R. Levin, and J. Buck 2003 Compartmentalization of bicarbonate-sensitive adenylyl cyclase in distinct signaling microdomains. FASEB Journal, 17: 82-84. Cover illustration. *First three authors contributed equally. PUBMED
  24. Klimuk S.K., S.C. Semple, P.C. Nahirney, M.C. Mullen, C.F. Bennett, P. Scherrer and M.J. Hope 2000 Enhanced anti-inflammatory activity of a liposomal intercellular adhesion molecule-1 antisense oligodeoxynucleotide in an acute model of contact hypersensitivity. Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, 292: 480-488. PUBMED
  25. Jiang X., T. Kobayashi, P.C. Nahirney, E. Garcia del Saz and H. Seguchi 2000 Ultracytochemical study on the localization of superoxide producing sites in stimulated rat neutrophils. Anatomical Record, 258: 156-165. PUBMED
  26. Ovalle, W.K., P.R. Dow and P.C. Nahirney 1999 Structure, distribution, and innervation of muscle spindles in avian fast and slow skeletal muscle. Journal of Anatomy, 194: 381-394. PUBMED
  27. Ovalle, W.K., S.L. Shinn and P.C. Nahirney 1998 Ultrastructure of the larval tentacle and its skeletal muscle in Xenopus laevis. Tissue & Cell, 30: 216-225. PUBMED
  28. Jiang, X., T. Kobayashi, P.C. Nahirney, E. Garcia del Saz and H. Seguchi 1998 An ultracytochemical study on the dynamics of alkaline phosphatase-positive granules in rat neutrophils. Histology and Histopathology, 13: 57-65.
  29. Kamada, M., T. Kobayashi, P.C. Nahirney, T. Okada, E. Garcia del Saz, T. Shuin and H. Seguchi 1997 Actin and cytokeratin in superficial transitional epithelial cells of the rabbit urinary bladder: A confocal and electron microscopic study. Acta Histochemica et Cytochemica, 30: 29-36. PUBMED
  30. Nahirney, P.C., P.R. Dow and W.K. Ovalle 1997 Quantitative morphology of mast cells in skeletal muscle of normal and genetically-dystrophic mice. Anatomical Record, 247: 341-349. PUBMED
  31. Jiang, X., T. Kobayashi, P.C. Nahirney, E. Garcia del Saz and H. Seguchi 1996 Ultracytochemical localization of alkaline phosphatase (ALPase) activity in neutrophils of the rat lung following injection of lipopolysaccharide. Acta Anatomica Nipponica, 71: 183-194. PUBMED
  32. Nahirney, P.C. and W.K. Ovalle 1993 Distribution of dystrophin and neurofilament protein in muscle spindles of normal and mdx-dystrophic mice: An immunocytochemical study. Anatomical Record, 235: 501-510. PUBMED
Book and educational materials
  1. Ovalle, W.K. and P.C. Nahirney Netter's Essential Histology. Second Edition. Elsevier/Saunders, Philadelphia, PA, 2008 (ISBN: 978-1-4557-0631-0), 517 pages.
  2. Ovalle, W.K. and P.C. Nahirney Netter's Histology Flash Cards. Second Edition. Elsevier/Saunders, Philadelphia, PA, 2008 (ISBN: 978-1-4160-4629-5), 223 cards.
  3. Ovalle, W.K. and P.C. Nahirney Netter’s Essential Histology. Elsevier/Saunders, Philadelphia, PA, 2008 (ISBN: 978-1-929007-86-8), 493 pages.
  4. Ovalle, W.K. and P.C. Nahirney Netter’s Histology Flash Cards. Elsevier/Saunders, Philadelphia, PA, 2008 (ISBN: 978-1-4160-4629-5), 223 cards.
Translated book versions
  1. Ovalle, W.K. and P.C. Nahirney Netter’s Essential Histology. Portuguese translation. Elsevier/Saunders, Philadelphia, PA, 2008 (ISBN: 978-85-352-2803-8), 493 pages.
  2. Ovalle, W.K. and P.C. Nahirney Netter’s Essential Histology. Turkish translation. Elsevier/Saunders, Philadelphia, PA, 2009 (ISBN: 978-975-277-220-5), 486 pages.
  3. Ovalle, W.K. and P.C. Nahirney Netter’s Essential Histology. Korean translation. Elsevier/Saunders, Philadelphia, PA, 2009 (ISBN: 978-89-92589-59-8), 491 pages.
  4. Ovalle, W.K. and P.C. Nahirney. Netter's Essential Histology. Greek translation. Elsevier/Saunders, Philadelphia, PA, 2011 (ISBN: 978-960-489-088-0) 500 pages.
Online educational materials  
  1. Ovalle, W.K. and P.C. Nahirney Netter's Essential Histology Video Series on Student Consult (www.studentconsult.com)
  2. Ovalle, W.K. and P.C. Nahirney Netter’s Essential Histology on Student Consult (www.studentconsult.com).
  3. Ovalle, W.K. and P.C. Nahirney EM (Electron Microscopy) Magnifier, University of British Columbia (http://em.anat.ubc.ca).

Graduate Students

Juan Trivino-Parades, PhD Candidate

Research Assistant

Setareh Javanmardy 

Past Graduate Students

Melissa Clarkson, MSc. (September 2018)

Acute astrogliosis and neurological deficits following repeated mild traumatic brain injury

Sammy Weiser Novak, MSc. (April 2015)

Ultrastructure and Morphometric analysis of Hippocampal Synapses in the Fmr1-/y Mouse Model of Fragile X Syndrome

Jessica Bilkey, MSc. (April 2015)

Modulation of Synaptic Vesicle Polls by Serotonin and the Spatial Organization of Vesicle Pools at the Crayfish Opener Neuromuscular Junction

Matthew Grey, MSc.

Bio-engineering of Muscle Tissue in Culture: Influence of Neural, Cartilage or Kidney Cells and the Effect of Retinoic Acid on Muscle Cell Growth.

Past Honours Students

Armin Bayati, BSc. (Honours)

Caitlin King, BSc. (Honours)

Ultrastructure of Synapses in the Dentate Gyrus of the Mouse Model of Fragile X Syndrome.

Canadian Institutes of Health Research Project Grant

$662,490 CIHR Grant for a five-year study (2018-23), investigating the role of the mesopontine cholinergic nuclei in mediating neurotransmission in subregions of the substantia nigra and modulating locomotion (Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction).

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)

125K NSERC Discovery Grant for a five-year study of the effects of prenatal stress on synapse ultrastructure. This project focuses on brain development and function from a structural perspective by utilizing electron microscopic imaging to pinpoint alterations in synapses and neurons.

Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and BC Knowledge and Development (BCKDF)

$375K CFI- BCKDF Leaders Opportunity Fund used for the purchase of a new transmission electron microscope.

Electron Tomography - Synapse in Dentate Gyrus

Glial cell TEM zoom series

Cultured glial cell viewed by transmission electron microscopy. This cell shows an impressive array of cytoplasmic elements, organelles and nuclear pores. The file contains multiple images from low to high magnification (from x5000 to x50000).