Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

Kirsten Young Rose Hills

Investigating the Regulation of Tau Levels

Tau is a microtubule-associated protein that ordinarily regulates cytoskeletal stabilization, but is abnormally hyper-phosphorylated and acetylated in neurodegenerative diseases classed as tauopathies. Although little is known about how tau becomes pathological, previous studies showed that the over-activation of the mTOR pathway could be implicated in tau pathogenesis. Multiple essential cellular functions are regulated by the two different mTOR-dependent pathwaysmTORC1 and mTORC2. These are distinguished from one another by pathway- specific proteins Raptor and Rictor, respectively. To understand which mTOR pathway is responsible for tau pathology, I will generate stable cell lines overexpressing Raptor and Rictor to analyze the effect of upregulation of each independent pathway on tau levels. Understanding tau accumulation mechanistically may help in developing treatments that decrease tau levels and ultimately slow, or even block, neurodegeneration.

Message To Sponsor

It has been an incredible honor to work on my project with the support of the Rose Hills Foundation and all the amazing resources SURF has to offer. I have always been passionate about research, and this fellowship allowed me to really dive deep into my field. This experience has been invaluable to my growth as a scientist: I learned to develop and pursue questions, and think critically about my goals and how to approach them. Having such a strong culture of support also built up my confidence and determination to keep pushing forward in academia. I am so grateful for the opportunities that this fellowship has given me, and I wouldn't have spent my summer any other way!
Profile image of Kirsten Young
Major: MCB Neurobiology and NS Toxicology
Mentor: Carolina Alquezar-Burillo
Sponsor: Rose Hills Experience
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