Kwaku Nantwi

Kwaku Nantwi

Kwaku Nantwi

Position Title

Associate Professor

Office Phone

313 577-7925


The focus of research in the lab of Dr. Nantwi is restoration of respiratory motor function after paralysis of the diaphragm in an animal model of spinal cord injury (SCI). In this model, functional restoration is attained by pharmacologic manipulations that activate a latent respiratory motor pathway referred to as the “Crossed Phrenic Pathway” (CPP). Briefly, an upper cervical (C2) hemisection (C2HS) interrupts the major descending bulbospinal respiratory pathways and paralyzes the ipsilateral hemidiaphragm. Systemic administration of the methylxanthine, theophylline, 24 h after C2HS, induces functional recovery in the paralyzed hemidiaphragm. Perhaps most importantly, theophylline-induced recovery can persist after prolonged drug-free periods. The underlying mechanisms for the theophylline-induced plasticity that sustains recovery are currently being investigated. In particular, our research focus now is to identify molecular signaling pathways that may initiate and sustain drug-induced persistent recovery.

Based on previous studies on drug-induced plasticity in the respiratory system, we now target two important molecular signaling pathways of plasticity for investigation (i) an initial cyclic AMP/PKA pathway and (ii) a subsequent PI3K/AKT and glycogen synthase kinase (GSK)-3b pathway in recovery of respiratory function in SCI. The current research focuses on activating two signaling pathways that converge on cyclic AMP Response Element Binding Protein (CREB)-mediated BDNF expression. A novel approach to restore respiratory function after C2 hemisection is the application of lithium to block GSK-3b and enhance BDNF levels. A recent innovation being tested in the lab is the topical application of Infrared light (IRL) to improve respiratory function in the C2HS model.

In addition, Dr Nantwi teaches Medical Histology (Year 1 students), and is Course Director for Graduate Medical Histology as well as Director for Post Baccalaureate Histology.

Dr. Nantwi received his BS degree in Zoology in 1979 and an MS (Zoology and Chemistry) in 1981 from Eastern Illinois University. He completed his PhD in Pharmacology in Wayne State University in 1991 and undertook a post doctoral fellowship in the Department of Physiology (1991-1993). He then completed a NIH supported minority fellowship in the Department of Ophthalmology, Visual and Anatomical Sciences (1994-1996). He joined the faculty in 1997 and is currently an Associate Professor.

Awards & Honors

  • Minority Biomedical Research Support Graduate School Fellowship (1985-1991)
  • NIH Minority Training Grant (1992-1994)
  • NIH Minority Research Fellowship Award (Supplement # HD 31550) 1994-1997
  • First Place Award (Poster Presentation): American Paraplegia Society Annual Meeting, Las Vegas, 1997
  • Bors Publishing Award (Senior Author on winning paper) American Paraplegia Society Annual Meeting, Las Vegas, 2006


Selected Publications

PubMed Link