Each brain has an army of primary immune cells called Microglia. While these cells usually participate in normal brain processes and protect our brain from injuries and infections, they can become dysfunctional as we age and trigger dementia-causing diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Genetics plays a role in the risk for these diseases, but studies show that non-genetic factors, such as habits and experiences, also have an influence. CUNY ASRC Neuroscience Initiative Professor Pinar Ayata recently received an award that is helping her explore those external factors. With funding from the CUNY Junior Faculty Research Award in Science and Engineering (JFRASE), she and her team are working to discover how non-genetic factors make the brain’s immune cells dysfunctional. Their findings could have a long-lasting impact on public health policies and lead to the development of therapeutics against dementia.
Professor Ayata, who also received a 2022 Alzheimer’s Association Research Grant (AARG), joins a select group of 26 CUNY faculty who have won the JFRASE program award since 2012. The program aims to cultivate excellence and ensure the promise of research-intensive, early-career science and engineering faculty at CUNY. It funds research projects for tenure-track junior faculty at CUNY who display the potential to make a significant contribution to the university, society, and their academic field.