Sara Cazzaro Buosi is is one of two awarded the Dorothy Benjamin Graduate Fellowship in Alzheimer’s Disease.
From a young age I was intrigued by how the human body operated and the way diseases could affect the functions it routinely performs. After three years of pursuing a Biology degree at the Universidad Simon Bolivar in Caracas, Venezuela, I decided to transfer to the University of South Florida to finish my undergraduate studies, where I obtained my B.S. in Biomedical Sciences during the Fall of 2016. During my time as an undergraduate student, I was determined to acquire experience in the research field specifically in the study of neurodegenerative diseases. I joined the Ph.D. program in Integrated Biomedical Sciences at USF Morsani College of Medicine during the Fall of 2017. In Dr. Kang’s lab, I have been dedicated to the study of the protein Slingshot 1 (SSH1) and how it affects mitochondria through different pathways in the context of Alzheimer’s disease. SSH1 is a protein phosphatase that has been reportedly involved in Cofilin activation, an actin filament severing protein. Our lab has found that SSH1 is able to activate Cofilin, which then migrates to mitochondria causing mitochondrial dysfunction and toxicity. Additionally, we recently published our work showing how SSH1 is also able to affect mitochondria through the blockage of mitochondrial clearance (mitophagy), due to the dephosphorylation/deactivation of the autophagy cargo receptor P62. We hope our further studies can elucidate the interplay between the different functions of SSH1 in Alzheimer’s diseased brains to better understand this disorder and provide better targets for future AD treatments. I appreciate and are truly proud to be awarded the Dorothy Benjamin Graduate Fellowship to support this research.
Santiago Rodriguez Ospina is one of two awarded the Dorothy Benjamin Graduate Fellowship in Alzheimer’s Disease.
Born in Colombia, I was raised in the US since middle school. I have
always been fascinated by science. In my undergraduate years, I had the
opportunity to participate in research on enzymes, biological catalyst,
and their mechanism of action. Currently, I am a PhD student in the lab
of Dr. Laura Blair at the USF Heath Neuroscience Institute. My work is
focused on using molecular chaperones, which are helper proteins in the
cell, to regulate the accumulation of tau, a primary hallmark in
Alzheimer’s disease. More specifically, I am studying how heat shock
protein 22 (Hsp22) affects tau. Hsp22, like other small Hsps, interacts
with misfolding proteins and holds onto them until they can be processed
for refolding or degradation. So far, results from my project have
showed that high levels of Hsp22 in areas of learning and memory in mice
with tau pathology can preserve the cognitive and nerve cell function. I
am currently investigating if fragments of the Hsp22 protein can also
protect against tau aggregation, and if these fragments or the
full-length Hsp22 can alter tau prion-like seeding in cells. I am
grateful to be a recipient of the Dorothy Benjamin Fellow, which will
further allow me to study Hsp22 and its effects on Alzheimer’s Disease
as well as enrich my training experience by supporting my attendance at a
Byrd Investigator Dr. David Kang initiates a new VA-funded study
We are pleased to announce the award of a $1.1 million grant from the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to Dr. David Kang, PhD.
Dr. Kang is the Director of Basic Research at the Byrd Institute, Professor of Molecular Medicine at USF Health, and a VA investigator at the James A. Haley VA Hospital. The new study will investigate the role of an enzyme called SSH1 in regulating ‘autophagy’, a cellular process underlying the clearance of toxic misfolded proteins and damaged cellular components. Such ‘autophagy’ process is impaired in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Over the next 4 years, this grant will focus on the molecular mechanisms and therapeutic strategies to enhance autophagy and the clearance of pathological tau protein from brain.
Byrd welcomes new researcher
Byrd Institute welcomes Dr. Bradlee Heckmann, PhD,
of Molecular Medicine and Byrd investigator. Dr. Heckmann received his PhD from
the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and postdoctoral training from
world-renowned researcher Dr. Douglas Green at St. Jude Children’s Hospital.
Dr. Heckmann’s research focuses on the molecular and cellular mechanisms, as
well as physiological influences that govern neuroimmunity. He recently
discovered a non-canonical use of the autophagy machinery in a process called
LC3-associated endocytosis. He further identified a role for this pathway in
regulating neuroinflammation and in the prevention of amyloid deposition and
neurodegeneration in Alzheimer’s disease. His work at USF Health and the Byrd
Alzheimer’s Institute will continue to focus on understanding the non-canonical
roles of the autophagy machinery and other mechanisms in regulating
neuroinflammation. Cumulatively, Dr. Heckmann and his research program aim to
further our understanding of how our brains are protected against
neurodegeneration, and how to therapeutically target neurodegenerative
diseases, infections, cancer, and beyond.
Byrd Investigators Dr. David Kang and Dr. Alexa Woo spearhead a new NIH-funded research project
We are thrilled to announce the award of a $1.9 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to co-PIs Dr. David Kang, PhD,
and Dr. Alexa Woo, PhD
. Dr. Kang is the Director of Basic Research at the Byrd Institute and Professor of Molecular Medicine. Dr. Woo, also a Byrd investigator, is an Assistant Professor in the department of Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology. The new project aims to understand how USP11, a multifunctional enzyme known to remove ubiquitin chains from proteins, contributes to tau tangle pathology in the development of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and related tauopathies. Over the next 5 years, this grant will allow them to determine if USP11 activity and associated mechanisms represent promising therapeutic targets to mitigate tau pathogenesis in AD. [No text in field]
Dr. Laura Blair, Byrd NSI Investigator, launches a new VA-funded research program
The Byrd Institute announces the award of a
$950,000 Veterans Affairs (VA) grant to Laura Blair, PhD
Professor of Molecular Medicine and a Byrd NSI Investigator. While the
incidence of physical wounds has dropped in veterans, many soldiers are
returning from deployment suffering from psychological wounds that manifest as
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depressive disorder (MDD). The
major goal of this 4-year study is to develop strategies to deplete the
stress-associated protein FKBP51 while deepening the understanding of FKBP51
biology, with the long-range goal of enhancing the psychological resiliency of
soldiers and veterans. Such efforts are also expected to help the general
population suffering from stress-related neurological disorders that impair
cognitive brain function.
Byrd Institute welcomes new researcher
Byrd Institute welcomes Dr. Gopal Thinakaran, PhD
, an internationally recognized Alzheimer’s disease researcher from the department of Neurobiology at the University of Chicago. Supported by $5.5 million in National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant funding, his research focuses on cutting-edge molecular and cellular processes underlying Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. At USF Health, Dr. Thinakaran will assume leadership roles as associate dean for neuroscience research, NSI associate director of research, and Bagnor Endowed Chair in Alzheimer’s Research. He will also serve as Professor of Molecular Medicine and Byrd Institute.
Byrd welcomes new researcher
We are excited to welcome Dr. Angele Parent, PhD
, from the University of Chicago. She studies how the brain remembers and what goes wrong with memory storage mechanisms in neurodegenerative diseases, focusing on communication between nerve cells (synaptic transmission) and neuronal plasticity. She recently received a 5-year $1.75 million NIH grant to examine how changes in APP metabolism affect memory in sleep-disturbed Alzheimer’s models. Dr. Parent will serve as Associate Professor of Molecular Medicine and Byrd Institute.
Byrd Investigator Dr. Alexa Woo launches a new NIH-funded research program
The Byrd Institute announces the award of a $1.8 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to Jung A (Alexa) Woo, PhD
, an Assistant Professor of Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology and a Byrd Investigator. Dr. Woo’s grant focuses on beta-arrestins, which are proteins classically known to bind and modify the function of cell surface receptors called GPCRs. Over the next five years, this grant will allow her to investigate how beta-arrestins alter the tau tangle protein to mitigate the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), possibly leading to new AD therapies.
Interview with Dr. Laura Blair featured by eNeuro Press
The April 2019
issue of the eNeuro Journal
an official online scientific journal for the Society for Neuroscience
featured an interview
with Dr. Laura Blair
, a Byrd investigator. In the interview,
Dr. Blair talks about her recent publication in eNeuro describing the cellular
and behavioral deficits in a transgenic mouse model in which the FKBP5 gene is
overexpressed. Increased FKBP5 has been associated with several psychiatric
disorders. The interview goes on to
describe her research philosophy and the focus of her laboratory. Full detailed
transcript of the interview and paper can be found here.
Byrd Institute welcomes new researcher
Dr. Lianchun Wang
recently joined the Byrd Institute as a Professor of Molecular Pharmacology & Physiology. His
research focuses on heparan sulfate (HS), a linear sugar present at the surface
of cells and extracellular matrix. He has worked to understand the functions
and related structures of HS in inflammation, blood vessel development, cancer,
and stem cell biology. Dr. Wang’s research also extends to Alzheimer’s,
with a focus on the aberrant expression of HS as a potential biomarker for the
diagnosis and prognosis of the disease. This NIH-funded research examines the
role of HS in the regulation of amyloid beta metabolism and neuroinflammation
attributing to the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s.
Dr. Krishna Bhat launches NIH-funded research program
We are excited to announce a $1.5 million research grant
from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded to Krishna Bhat, MD, PhD,
Professor of Molecular Medicine and Byrd Institute Investigator. This grant
will allow him to conduct research on genes and proteins that regulate the
division of neuronal stem cells. His findings could reveal how the brain is
formed during development and provide key insights to new therapies that induce
the generation of new brain cells in the adult brain. This could help treat
many degenerative conditions of the brain, including Alzheimer’s.