- Assistant Professor, Ayata Lab, Neuroscience Initiative
Dr. Ayata’s research focuses on the role that specialized microglia subpopulations play in mediating environmental effects on brain aging, with a specific focus on Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Microglia, the brain’s primary immune cells, have been implicated as the major causal cell type in AD. Based on recent data, indicating that epigenetic regulation in microglia is a primary driver of sporadic AD, her research aims to understand how the environment regulates the epigenetic landscape of microglia, and how these mechanisms influence neurodegeneration.
Dr. Ayata was born and raised in Istanbul. While continuing her undergraduate studies in Turkey, she did summer internships in German Cancer Research Center and Harvard Medical School. Her graduate work in the laboratory of Dr. Nathaniel Heintz at The Rockefeller University shed light on the interaction of 5-hydroxymethylcytosine modification and MeCP2 protein, and the pathophysiology of Rett syndrome. Her postdoctoral work in the laboratory of Dr. Anne Schaefer at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai unraveled cerebellar microglia as a subtype of microglia that functionally specialize in the phagocytic clearance of apoptotic neurons. She pinpointed the epigenetic mechanism that maintains microglial subtype specification and showed that it is crucial for normal brain function. Dr. Ayata’s recent work focuses on epigenetic mechanisms regulating functional specification of microglia in AD. She is the recipient of Women and Science Graduate Fellow Award, Rockefeller University Graduate Fellowship, NARSAD Young Investigator Award, and Robin Chemers Neustein Postdoctoral Award.