Fellows in Focus

 

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Photo of Dr. Stephanie Sarbanes

NINDS Competitive Fellowship Award (NCFA) Recipient

Dr. Stephanie Sarbanes, in Dr. Antonina Roll-Mecak’s lab, received the NINDS Competitive Fellowship Award (NCFA) for her proposal “Investigation of the tubulin autoregulatory response at the mechanistic level and in the human neuron”.  Microtubules are comprised of alpha/beta-tubulin heterodimers that self-assemble from a soluble tubulin pool into dynamic polymers.  The cell carefully monitors this balance between soluble pool and polymer through a unique feedback mechanism termed “tubulin autoregulation”.  When cells detect large influxes of soluble tubulin (ex. upon MT depolymerization) they rapidly respond by identifying tubulin-translating ribosomes and destroying the associated tubulin mRNA.  While many components in this pathway remain unknown, identification of this subset of ribosomes depends upon TTC5, a protein whose mutation has been recently associated with intellectual disability.  Nevertheless, tubulin autoregulation in neurons, whose architecture and action are highly-dependent on the microtubule cytoskeleton, is largely unexplored. Dr. Sarbanes’ project seeks to uncover additional factors required by the autoregulatory pathway and explore the role of TTC5 in MT homeostasis in the human neuron both across differentiation and upon neuronal injury.  She will carry out this work under the co-mentorship of Dr. J. Robert Hogg (NHLBI). 

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Photo of Dr. Kanika Sharma

 

NMSS Sylvia Lawry Physician Grant Recipient

Congratulations to Dr. Kanika Sharma, Clinical Fellow in the Translational Neuroradiology Section. As announced in the OCD newsletter, Dr. Sharma received the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) Sylvia Lawry Physician Grant. This Fellowship program provides the individual with an M.D. or equivalent medical degree with up to 3-years of formal training, under the tutelage of an established investigator, in key elements associated with conducting clinical trials in MS.

 

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Ilia

 

NCFA Award Recipient 

Dr. Ilia Zhernov, in Dr. Antonina Roll-Mecak’s lab, received an NINDS Competitive Fellowship Award (NCFA) for his proposal entitled Combinatorial regulation of katanin-induced microtubule remodeling. Katanin, a microtubule severing enzyme is associated with microcephaly in humans and its loss has been shown to be important for normal neuronal development in many model systems. Dr. Zhernov aims to unravel how synergistic activities of katanin and the neuronal regulators of microtubule dynamics, CLASP2, chTOG and KIF2A, control exchange of microtubule subunits called tubulin at the microtubule shaft. These proteins can sway the equilibrium between addition and removal of tubulin at sites of microtubule nanodamage introduced by katanin and thereby can determine whether the microtubule network is completely disassembled or amplified. Dr. Zhernov will use a combination of high-resolution imaging approaches in vitro and in neurons to study how these proteins synergize with katanin to control the fate of the microtubule and the overall architecture and dynamics of microtubule arrays. The results from this study will shed light on regulation of the architecture of neuronal microtubule networks.

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Photo of Dr. Veronica Ryan

Veronica Ryan Accepted into PRAT Program

Congratulations to Veronica Ryan, of the Inherited Neurodegenerative Diseases Unit, who recently received an NIGMS Postdoctoral Research Associate Training (PRAT) award. The NIGMS PRAT Program is a competitive three-year postdoctoral fellowship program that provides high quality research training in the basic biomedical sciences in NIH intramural laboratories. The program prepares trainees for leadership positions in biomedical careers through mentored laboratory research, networking, and intensive career and leadership development activities. Dr. Ryan was accepted into the program for her proposal that investigates the mechanisms of mRNA transport granule assembly in neurons and how this assembly is altered in neurodegenerative disease, specifically amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal dementia (ALS/FTD). These studies will provide critical understanding of mRNA granule packaging and transport in neurons as

 

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Photo of Deeya Garg

Fellow Deeya Garg  was featured in the I Am Intramural Blog 

This past summer, Deeya worked with IRP staff scientist Joe Steiner, Ph.D., who leads the Drug Development Unit at NINDS. Her project assessed the potential of using statin medications, normally used for managing blood cholesterol and staving off heart disease, to stop HIV infection from destroying brain cells. This relatively understudied effect of HIV can cause a spectrum of neurological problems collectively known as HIV-associated neurocognitive disorder (HAND). Per Deeya, “There is currently no effective treatment against HAND despite the nearly 500,000 individuals experiencing the disorder in the United States alone,” Deeya says. “Approaching HIV from a cognitive lens was particularly unique and exciting to me!” Read more.

Fellow Award for Research Excellence (FARE)

The NINDS is very pleased to announce this year’s winners of the FARE competition for 2022. Below are the NINDS award recipients along with their respective mentors. We extend sincere congratulations to our nine winners for their successes and the honor they bring to the intramural program of our institute.

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Photo of Jiayi Chen
Jiayi Chen mentored by Antonina Roll-Mecak.
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Photo of Eunice Domínguez Martín
Eunice Domínguez Martín mentored by  Richard Youle.
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Photo of Joseph Roney
Joseph Roney mentored by Zu-Hang Sheng.
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Photo of Pankaj Pathak
Pankaj Pathak mentored by Ami Mankodi.
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Photo of Xiaoyi Li
Xiaoyi Li mentored by Jeff Diamond.
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Photo of Jonathan Pomeraniec
Jonathan Pomeraniec mentored by Kareem Zaghloul.
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Photo of Dr. Risa Isonaka
Risa Isonaka mentored by David Goldstein.
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Photo of Sahba Seddighi
Sahba Seddighi mentored by Michael Ward.
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Photo of Kyle Kern
Kyle Kern mentored by Richard Leigh.
     

 

 

Congratulations to NINDS Clinical Research Excellence Award (NCREA) Recipients

The NCREA award is aimed at promoting clinical research and recognizing clinical research achievements among NINDS Clinical Research Trainees and Clinical Nursing Staff. 

Photo of Matthew Gooden, M.S.
Matthew Gooden, M.S.
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Photo of Dr. Risa Isonaka
Risa Isonaka, Ph.D. (two-time award recipient)
Photo of Dr. Guillaume Lamotte
Guillaume Lamotte, M.D., M.Sc
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Photo of Vijay Letchuman
Vijay Letchuman, B.A.
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Photo of Cynthia McMahan
Cynthia McMahan, B.S.

 

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Photo of Dr. Fabrico Do Couto Nicola

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 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 encodes 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.

 

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Photo of Dr. Jennifer Colon Mercado

NCFA Award Recipient

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, or 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.

 

 

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Photo of Dr. Eunice A. Domínguez-Martín

Pew Latin American Fellows Award

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.

 

 

 

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Photo of Dr. Jacey Chen

Dr. Jacey Chen receives NCFA Award

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.

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Photo of Dr. Sarah Hill

Dr. Sarah Hill receives award from BrightFocus Foundation

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.