On behalf of the University of South Florida’s Morsani College of Medicine, welcome to the USF Health Neuroscience Institute (NSI) website. Throughout these pages, we hope that you will find inspiration, direction and hope from the work that our team is doing—whether in the laboratories, in the clinics or in the community.
The NSI is an ambitious concept designed to accelerate progress in the neurosciences by promoting inter-disciplinary collaborations among USF faculty/staff, as well as with partners outside of the University. These varied alliances occur across subject expertise and bridge domains. In other words, expert scientists (in labs) collaborate with physicians to better understand the connection between research, treatment and prevention.
The USF Neuroscience Institute is proud to announce the 2019 winners of the Dorothy Benjamin Graduate Fellowship in Alzheimer’s Disease. The Dorothy Benjamin Fellowship is made possible by a generous donation from Dorothy Benjamin with an Endowment for Alzheimer’s Research. Each year PhD students who are doing research in Alzheimer’s disease are eligible to apply for a one to two year fellowship that supports their research. This year two candidates were awarded $12,000 per year. The two candidates are Sara Cazzaro Buosi and Santiago Rodriguez Ospina.
Sara Cazzaro Buosi
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 am truly proud to be awarded the Dorothy Benjamin Graduate Fellowship to support this research
Santiago Rodriguez Ospina
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 national conference
USF NSI Researcher Receives a USF New Researchers Grant
The NSI Institute announces the award of the USF New Researcher Grant to Tanisha Hill-Jarrett, PhD, an Assistant Professor of Neuropsychology and a Byrd NSI Investigator. In collaboration with co-investigator Dr. Martinque Jones of the University of North Texas, the study will examine the effects of coping style on the relationship between psychosocial stressors experienced by Black Americans and cognition. The long term objective of the project is to advance understanding of the psychosocial determinants of cognitive health -- that is, how lived experiences through the life course influence cognitive health and cognitive aging in racial and ethnic minority communities.