Fellows in Focus




NINDS Clinical Research Excellence Award (NCREA) Recipients

Photo of Matthew Gooden, M.S.
Photo of Dr. Risa Isonaka
Photo of Dr. Guillaume Lamotte
Photo of Vijay Letchuman

Congratulations to NCREA awardees Matthew Gooden, M.S.,  Risa Isonaka, Ph.D., Guillaume Lamotte, M.D., M.Sc., and  Vijay Letchuman, B.A. (pictured above L-R). The award promotes clinical research and recognizes outstanding achievements from NINDS Clinical Research Trainees. A Post-Bac IRTA in Dr. Lauren Reoma’s unit, Matthew Gooden’s abstract, The Effect of Trainings and Site Initiation Visits on Clinical Trial Non-Compliance in Neurology Research, was submitted to the 2021 American Academy of Neurology Annual Meeting.  A Research Fellow in Dr. David S. Goldstein’s lab, Dr. Isonaka’s abstract entitled Pathophysiological Significance of Alpha-synuclein Deposition in Heart, Submandibular Gland, and Skin in Parkinson Disease was accepted at the American Autonomic Society (AAS ). Dr. Lamotte, a Special Volunteer also in Dr. Goldstein’s lab, also had an abstract accepted by the AAS, Sympathetic Noradrenergic Deficiency in Lewy Body Diseases is Cardioselective. Dr. Letchuman, whose abstract The Central Vein Sign Profile of Newly Developing T2 or Enhancing Lesions in Multiple Sclerosis was submitted to Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis, is an MRSP Clinical Fellow in Dr. Daniel Reich’s lab.


Photo of Stephanie Tam and Kate Huffer

See and Hear the Brain and Muscles Talking

Fellows Stephanie Tam and  Kate Huffer, from the
Molecular Physiology & Biophysics Section, are on YouTube to
show how "EMG SpikerBox" amplifiers can be used to hear
and see the electrical signals travelling between the brain
and muscles. Students can perform their own reaction time
experiments to measure the speed of the electrical signals
traveling from their brain to their muscles, and test how
temperature and muscle fatigue can change their reaction times.


NCFA Award Recipient 

Dr. Fabrico Do Couto Nicola in Dr. Ariel Levine’s lab,  received
an NINDS Competitive Fellowship Award  (NCFA) award for 

his project entitled The Spinal Cord Cells and Circuits for a 
Defined Motor Behavior.
 The spinal cord is the main
 main link between the body and the brain. Understanding
how the spinal cord circuits are organized and function are
fundamental to understanding the nervous system's behavioral
control. The spinal cord has a diversity of cell types underpinning
the communication between the brain and the body, whose
behavioral contribution remains largely unknown. Dr. Do Couto
Nicola’s goal is to unravel how the spinal cord en
codes a simple
movement. To do so, he proposes to systematically probe the
diverse spinal cord cell types involved in a single movement
(jumping) and thereby understand how the spinal cord encodes
and mediates this behavior.

Photo of Dr. Fabrico Do Couto Nicola
Photo of Dr. Jennifer Colon Mercado

NCFA Award Recipent

Dr. Jennifer Colon Mercado, in Dr. Michael Ward’s lab, received
the NINDS Competitive Fellowship Award  (NCFA) for her proposal
Investigating Mechanisms of VCP-related Neurodegeneration using
iPSC-derived Neurons and Muscle.
Mutations in Valosin Containing
Protein (VCP) can cause a combinatorial spectrum of Amyotrophic
Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), frontotemporal dementia, myopathy, 
multisystem proteinopathy. Her project will investigate the
consequences of mutant VCP in protein turnover, pathology, and  
functionality using iPSC-derived motor neurons and a novel
neuromuscular junction model. Her goal is to broaden
understanding of the human motor neuron pathology and the
functional phenotypes related to ALS, leading to new treatment insights.

Noelia Foundation Award

The Noelia Foundation - children against Collagen VI Congenital
Muscular Dystrophies, a Spanish non-profit organization
established by the parents of a boy diagnosed with this
degenerative condition, 
selected the research proposal of
Dr. Astrid Brull
(pictured at right), a post-doctoral visiting fellow
in the 
Bönnemann lab, for two-year funding. With her
proposal RNA Editing by Recruiting Endogenous ADAR

using Long RNAs to Correct Glycine Substitutions in
,  Dr. Brull aims at precisely correcting path
variants in collagen 6 transcripts, by exploiting RNA editing
for therapeutic purposes.  

Photo of Dr. Astrid Brull



Cure CMD Award Recipients

The Noelia Foundation also contributed with funding for a separate call for proposals launched by Cure CMD, a national non-profit organization whose mission is to advance research for treatments and cure for all congenital muscular dystrophies. Together, these organizations selected the research proposal from Dr. Véronique Bolduc, a Staff Scientist and former Fellow (lower left), and Fady Guirguis, a Ph.D.-student (lower right) from the Bönnemann lab. Their proposal, Directed Evolution of Adeno-associated virus (AAV) Capsids for Effective Gene Delivery to the Muscle Fibroadipogenic Progenitors (FAPs), aims at addressing a fundamental problem to developing gene therapies for the collagen VI-related muscular dystrophies: the lack of a suitable and efficient viral vector to deliver nucleic acids to the muscle FAPs, main producers of collagen VI in skeletal muscles. To accomplish this work, Dr. Bolduc and Mr. Guirguis will collaborate with Dr. Luk Vandenberghe, professor at Harvard Medical School, a pioneer in the field of AAV.

Research support from patient advocacy groups such as this is always a special privilege and inspiration, as well as a great responsibility - as these funds were raised solely by the affected families to advance research in the conditions affecting their life. They feel it’s also is a wonderful way to stay connected to the families and for the families to stay involved in research while raising the bar for the research team.

Photo of Dr. Fady Guirguis
Photo of Dr. Veronique Bolduc

Pew Latin American Fellows Award

Photo of Dr. Eunice A. Domínguez-Martín

The Pew Charitable Trusts has announced that Eunice A. Domínguez-Martín, Ph.D., an NIH post-doctoral fellow, is one of 10 recipients of an award from Pew’s Latin American Fellows Program in Biomedical Sciences. Dr. Domínguez-Martín works in the laboratory of Richard J. Youle, Ph.D., senior investigator at the NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, where she is currently conducting pre-clinical research on the role the innate immune system may play in damaging the brain during Parkinson’s disease. Read more

Dr. Jacey Chen receives NCFA Award

Photo of Dr. Jacey Chen

Dr. Jacey Chen, a Research Fellow in the Cell Biology and Biophysics Section, received an NINDS Competitive Postdoctoral Fellowship Award this past April. Her proposal entitled Mechanistic Studies of Microtubule Deglutamylation Enzymes Associated with Neurodegeneration focuses on understanding the mechanism of two of the main enzymes that function as erasers of the tubulin code. The Cell Biology and Biophysics Section led by Dr. Antonina Roll-Mecak provides the perfect environment for such a project given her extensive understanding of how the genetic and chemical diversity of tubulin regulates the dynamics and mechanical properties of microtubules and constitutes a code that is interpreted by microtubule-based motors and associated proteins. Dr. Chen will express tubulin carboxypeptidases for structural and biophysical analyses, to understand how they specifically recognize the tubulin substrate and glutamate chains and how they affect microtubule dynamicsutilize. She will use a combination of structural biology approaches (X-¬ray crystallography and cryo-¬EM), enzymology and analytical mass spectrometry to understand how these enzymes recognize their substrate. She also plans to reconstitute microtubule dynamics in vitro in the presence of the two enzymes to understand the effects of the glutamylation/deglutamylation cycle on microtubule dynamics. This is an ambitious proposal, success on this project would provide the first high-resolution structure for any enzyme of the cytosolic carboxypeptidase (CCP) family. Dr. Chen’s long-term goal is to dissect protein mechanism using a multifaceted experimental approach that gives her information about proteins at different spatial and temporal scales.

Dr. Sarah Hill receives award from BrightFocus Foundation

Photo of Dr. Sarah Hill

Sarah Hill, Ph.D., received an award from the BrightFocus Foundation for her Alzheimer grant application entitled, Investigating Coordinated Local Translation and Degradation in Axons and the Role of FTD-related Genes. BrightFocus provides research funds for U.S. domestic as well as international researchers pursuing pioneering research leading to greater understanding, prevention, and treatment of Alzheimer's disease. Dr. Hill is a Fellow mentored in the Inherited Neurodegenerative Diseases Unit under Dr. Michael Ward. Neurons must balance the removal of old proteins with the synthesis of new proteins. This is especially important at synapses, which are often located far from the cell body. Dr. Hill’s study we will test if local degradation at lysosomes fuels new protein synthesis, and how these processes are coordinated and altered during neurodegenerative disease.


Dr. Emily Petrus Receives a K99 Award

Photo of Dr. Emily Petrus

NINDS Research Fellow Dr. Emily Petrus from the Functional and Molecular Metabolism Section in the Laboratory of Functional and Molecular Imaging was recently awarded a K99 - NIH Pathway to Independence Award for her proposal entitled The Mechanisms and Functional Consequences of Inter-hemispheric Plasticity. The ability of the brain’s neural circuits to reorganize after amputation, nerve damage or stroke mediates optimal recovery after a traumatic event. But this neural plasticity can also cause problematic phenotypes such as chronic pain, phantom limb pain or hyperalgesia. Basic research findings from this study will elucidate the specific neurons, synapses and receptors in the circuit underlying adaptive or maladaptive plasticity after peripheral nerve transection. Drs. Alan Koretsky and Ariel Levine are co-sponsors on the award. This is truly an outstanding accomplishment!