My laboratory uses Drosophila melanogaster – the fruit fly – to explore fundamental questions in neuronal development, plasticity and degeneration. My graduate work involved investigating mechanisms of synaptic transmission using the Drosophila neuromuscular junction as a model system. During my post-doc I continued my work on synaptic transmission and also began exploring molecular mechanisms of long-term synaptic plasticity focusing on the role of specific transcription factors such as Fos and CREB. This work led to the identification of specific plasticity-related functions for the AP-1 (Fos and Jun heterodimers) transcription factor. I also developed new assays to measure dendritic plasticity in vivo (using 3D reconstruction methods). I moved to Emory University with joint appointments in the Departments of Cellular Biology and Neurology in the School of Medicine in 2006. Here, my laboratory became seriously invested in the modeling of neurological disorders in Drosophila. These have included collaborative efforts on Spinal Muscular Atrophy, Parkinson’s disease and Restless Legs Syndrome or Willis-Ekbom Disease, in addition to studies on oxidative stress and lifespan regulation. Work in my academic laboratory has been supported by the NIDA, NIMH, NINDS as well as by NARSAD, the Sleep Research Society Foundation and the Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation.
I joined the Neurology discovery group at Biogen in 2013, where I will continue to use Drosophila as a chassis to drive early discovery and leverage the considerable in-house capabilities and collaborative potential to define core understanding of conserved biological principles underlying neurodegenerative disorders. A central goal for our group will be to understand the nexus between genes, environment and aging in regulating nervous system physiology. To this end we are investigating cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying neuronal function as well as measuring more complex outputs, such as sleep and motor control, from intact nervous systems. Overall, we aim to apply this knowledge towards understanding the pathophysiology of neurodegenerative and complex psychiatric disorders. We favor a multi-faceted approach in the technologies we implement in the laboratory, and therefore, we combine the facile and powerful genetic tool box in Drosophila with cell biological methods, 3D confocal microscopy, electrophysiology and a number of behavioral assays that measure motor control, circadian rhythm and sleep.
1. Ph.D. (Molecular Neuroscience) – Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, India in the laboratory of Dr. K. S. Krishnan.
2. Post-doctoral fellow – University of Arizona, Tucson, USA, in the laboratory of Dr. Mani Ramaswami.