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Eight scientists awarded NIH grants for high-risk, high-reward research | News Center

Eight scientists awarded NIH grants for high-risk, high-reward research | News Center

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Karl Deisseroth, MD, PhD, professor of bioengineering and of psychiatry and behavior sciences and the D.H. Chen Professor, and Anne Brunet, PhD, professor of genetics and the Michele and Timothy Barakett Endowed Professor, will use their five-year, $13.75 million award to advance the basic science of how the brain and the aging process control each other.

They intend to develop new technologies for collecting brainwide, neuronal activity signals at cellular resolution across the entire life span of a vertebrate animal from the beginning of its life until its death.

“We expect these new technologies and follow-on basic science discoveries to be directly pertinent to major societal problems facing the United States and the world,” said Deisseroth, whose research focuses on developing molecular and cellular tools to observe, perturb and re-engineer brain circuits. “Aging leads to a decline in cognitive abilities, even in healthy individuals, and is the leading risk factor for conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. Meanwhile, the median age of the human population continues to rise on all continents.”

Brunet’s work concerns the molecular mechanisms of aging and longevity, with a particular emphasis on the nervous system. “We’re looking to identify ways to observe changes in the brain during aging,” she said. “We’ve pioneered genetic and genome-editing tools to transform a short-lived vertebrate, the African killifish, into a premier model organism for studying aging and age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. We feel that this system is ideally suited to discover new neuronal networks that respond to aging and can regulate its pace.”

Deisseroth and Brunet are members of Stanford Bio-X and the Stanford Neurosciences Institute. Additionally, Brunet is a member of the Stanford Cancer Institute and the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute and co-director of the Stanford Glenn Center for the Biology of Aging. Deisseroth co-directs the Stanford “Cracking the Neural Code” program and is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator.

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