Conducts research focused on the regulation of protein translation in the nervous system, especially in the context of neurological and neurodegenerative disease.
Although age is the major risk factor for most neurodegenerative diseases, the mechanisms that underlie the age-related death of neurons are still poorly understood. Growing evidence suggests that subtle shifts in the homeostasis of cellular processes such as organelle trafficking, protein degradation, transcription and translation can have dramatic effects on neuronal survival. My research in the Ackerman lab is focused on the regulation of protein translation in the nervous system, especially in the context of neurological and neurodegenerative disease. Recent work from the lab has identified a tRNA gene that is specifically expressed in the central nervous system. This is the only known tissue specific tRNA gene. Loss of this tRNA results in ribosome stalling at the cognate codon, and this stalling is dramatically increased in the absence of a ribosome-recycling factor, leading to widespread neurodegeneration and death. I am currently investigating the role of this brain-specific tRNA in neuronal function and survival, as well as exploring the regulation of other tRNA genes in the nervous system. The causative mutations in a number of human neurological diseases have been linked to tRNA-associated genes, underscoring the need for a clearer understanding of the regulation of tRNA and translation in the nervous system.
2006 James Olds Memorial Neuroscience Award for undergraduate thesis research
2006 Phi Beta Kappa National Academic Award Society
2006 Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society
2002 National Biology Award, India