At the Bench: Katerina Akassoglou, PhD, on the Role of Blood Proteins in Neurologic Disease

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Katerina Akassoglou, PhD, discusses her work investigating the role of fibrinogen and the brain's innate immune response in neurologic disease, and how receiving the NINDS Research Program Award will further her work.
In September, Katerina Akassoglou, PhD, senior investigator at the Gladstone Institutes of Neurological Disease and professor of neurology at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), received the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) Research Program Award for her groundbreaking work investigating the intersection of the brain, immune and vascular systems in neurologic diseases. The $5.8 million grant, which provides longer term support and increased flexibility to researchers who have made significant contributions to neuroscience, will be administered over the next eight years. Dr. Akassoglou spoke with Neurology Today about her career trajectory and how this grant will further her research.
Applying for the NINDS Research Program Award is not unlike applying for any other grant. One applies, awaits review, then receives notice of whether the grant has been awarded. The process was straightforward and familiar to Dr. Akassoglou, who has been awarded many research grants throughout her career. But what is unique about the Research Program Award is its magnitude and flexibility. This relatively new grant from the National Institutes of Health awards nearly $6 million over eight years, allowing for more stability and support for high-risk projects than a typical research grant, she says.
Dr. Akassoglou felt honored to receive the award in September of this year. The funds would allow her to continue her work investigating the role of blood proteins in inflammatory processes in the brain in neurovascular disease — an approach that involves exploring “basic mechanisms of how blood-brain barrier dysfunction affects glia and neuronal cells, and how blood-brain barrier dysfunction affects communication between the brain and the peripheral immune system,” she told Neurology Today.
“We have also found that working at the interface between the blood and the brain is a rich area for novel imaging approaches. We're implementing new imaging technologies to be able to see this process in real time in the brain, and advanced microscopy techniques that allow us to reconstruct blood vessels and neurons in the whole brain.
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