Marie Davis and Yuliang Wang Receive Tietze Research Awards

Marie Davis PhD, Assistant Professor, Neurology

Two ISCRM faculty members, Marie Davis PhD, Assistant Professor, Neurology and Yuliang Wang, Research Assistant Professor, Computer Science and Engineering, have received prestigious awards from the John H. Tietze Foundation Trust that will help fuel promising research underway in their labs.

 Investigating a Culprit in Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that impacts nearly one million people in the United States and more than ten million people worldwide. Parkinson’s disease can severely limit quality of life for patients and the total economic impact exceeds $50 million a year in the U.S. alone.

The Jaconette L. Tietze Young Scientist Award will enable Marie Davis and her lab to investigate a potential role for the gene GBA in abnormal protein aggregation associated with Parkinson’s disease. The study will attempt to shed light on a poorly understand aspect of the disease – specifically, how the spread of these protein aggregates throughout the brain correlate with disease progression. The researchers will use patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cells to grow neurons and astrocytes (cells that help neurons function normally). Their goal is to better understand how mutations in GBA interact with astrocytes to determine the fate of neurons, potentially pointing to new therapeutic strategies that could slow or halt the progression of PD.

“This award is incredibly helpful for me to grow my new lab in these new promising directions involving stem cell-derived models,” says Davis. “I am grateful to the Tietzes and to ISCRM for this amazing support.”

Yuliang Wang, PhD, Assistant Research Professor of Computer Science & Engineering

Listening to Cell Whisperers

Complex tissue structures like the heart or kidney contain numerous and diverse cell types that must communicate with each other in order to main healthy functioning. But what happens to this critical inter-cellular communications when disease strikes?

The Jaconette L. Tietze Young Scientist Award will a project, led by Yuliang Wang, PhD, Research Assistant Professor of Computer Science & Engineering, to develop a computational approach to study how so-called whispers between cell types are affected by disease. The investigation will combines concepts from information theory with single cell transcriptomics, which measures the abundances of genes across thousands of cells. Wang hopes the results of the study could lead to new interventions to restore cell-to-cell communications.