Our group uses Drosophila melanogaster (the fruit fly) to explore the interactions between genes and environmental cues and how these interactions influence the development of neurodegenerative diseases. To this end, we are conducting genetic experiments to better understand the molecular mechanism of neurodegenerative disorders. We are utilizing morphological and behavioral changes as markers for neurological dysfunction in the intact animals. We also employ high-resolution imaging techniques and electrophysiological recordings to monitor changes at the cellular level to assess neuronal functions. The goal is to translate discoveries in fruit flies to mammalian models of neurodegeneration for discovery and development of target therapeutics.

Prior to joining Biogen, I did my post-graduate training with Dr. Leo Pallanck at the University of Washington. I created fly transgenic models of Parkinson’s disease (PD) and interrogated the molecular mechanisms that underlie neuronal death in PD. Using a transgenic fly model expressing the human alpha-synuclein, a key component of Lewy bodies in PD brains, I performed a genetic screen and showed that genes involved in glutathione (GSH) metabolism modify neuronal health. Also, environmental factors that enhance GSH production can be beneficial to dopamine neurons. My work also included modeling Gaucher’s disease, a lysosomal storage disorder, in the fly and interrogating the effect of mitochondria DNA mutations on disease and aging. My graduate work focused on the molecular mechanisms that underlie long-term adaptation in sensory neurons to understand the cellular mechanism of odorant detection. This led to the creation and analysis of an adenylyl cyclase type III (AC3) knockout mouse. AC3 is a key cAMP-generating enzyme in olfactory neurons and AC3 knockout animals are anosmic.

Education

  • Ph.D., University of Washington, Seattle, WA - 2003
  • M.S., San Diego State University, San Diego, CA - 1995
  • B.S., San Diego State University, San Diego, CA - 1992

Selected Publications

See more scientists