PiN Faculty Member - Tracy Young-Pearse, PhD

Tracy Young-Pearse, PhD

Associate Professor of Neurology

Brigham and Women's Hospital
Building for Transformative Medicine, Room 100160
60 Fenwood Dr.
Boston, MA 02115
Tel: 617-525-5783
Fax: 617-525-5252
Visit my lab page here.

Our lab aims to understand the functions of genes identified in neurodegenerative and neurodevelopmental disorders of the human brain such as schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease (AD), bipolar disorder, autism and intellectual disability. We use a variety of molecular and biochemical techniques in conjunction with rodents and induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) experimental systems to understand the normal and pathological functions of genes involved in these disorders. By elucidating the normal functions and mechanisms of action of these genes and how mutations cause pathology, we hope to better understand both the fundamental causes of these devastating diseases and the normal development and functioning of the brain.

AD is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by dysfunction and deterioration of neurons resulting in loss of memory and progressive cognitive decline. Current treatments are aimed only at symptom management. We are using iPSC technology coupled to comprehensive studies of patient populations to understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying AD in an effort to break down these barriers. We have made iPSC lines from over 50 different people – some of whom had dramatic cognitive decline with age and developed AD and others who lived to be beyond the age of 80 with perfect cognition and no AD pathology in their brain. We are investigating how the genetics of these different individuals contributed to their risk for neurological diseases such as AD by studying neurons and glia derived from these stem cells. The ultimate, long term goal is to use this system to develop algorithms that will both predict AD and determine the underlying cause of AD in different individuals.

There is an urgent need for new therapies for neurodevelopment disorders. However, understanding autism and mental illness at a cell and molecular level is a daunting task, and the field is not yet ready to design drugs targeting the molecular pathways underlying complex disorders of the brain. The identification and study of convergent molecular pathways and cellular processes relevant to human brain diseases will facilitate progress toward the development of new interventions. To this end, our approach involves integrating expression and molecular profiling data from the human brain with genetic and clinical data to identify candidate genes and pathways with high likelihood of relevance to complex brain disorders. We use the complementary experimental systems of in vitro human neuronal and glial cultures and in vivo modulation of gene expression in rodents.

Last Update: 9/16/2020


For a complete listing of publications click here.



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