Phyllis and Jerome Lyle Rappaport MGH Research Scholars

Text courtesy MGH Development Office; photos courtesy MGH Photography.

Brian Bacskai, PhD, Neurology

Brian Bacskai, PhD, Neurology

2012 Research Scholar

Dr. Bacskai’s research is aimed at understanding Alzheimer’s disease in the most physiologically relevant model — the intact brain. During the past year, he used the scholar funds to support general research in his lab and to offset the high cost of microscopes and of the aged transgenic mouse models. In addition, he started a new project that has yet to receive funding, requiring a small capital investment, some expensive biological reagents and the recruitment and training of a new postdoctoral fellow.

Dr. Bacskai reports that scientific progress was “excellent” this year. Specifically, he has published some of his most recent work in great journals and has been moving forward with ongoing projects in the lab. Journal articles for several projects are in progress; two have recently been submitted. He feels he has had great success in moving new and early projects forward.

In addition, Dr. Bacskai has been generating new data for a National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant submission. He will resubmit this R01 application with the new data. Likewise, he hopes to generate enough preliminary data in his new project to apply for funding through the NIH, probably as an R21 application. He believes that a critical component of the Research Scholars program is that it provides the freedom to pursue new ideas and develop an idea into something tangible enough to generate more funds through granting agencies. In his words, “This is a great mechanism to leverage additional funding.”

Dr. Bacskai believes this award has affected him personally in a very positive way. It has raised awareness of his research within his department and the hospital and further validated his approaches and research directions. Moreover, he has begun discussing a new research project, which he is excited about pursuing with another Research Scholar from a different discipline.

Eng Lo, PhD, Radiology/Neuroradiology

Eng Lo, PhD, Radiology/Neuroradiology

2012 Research Scholar

Dr. Lo believes his lab has used the Rappaport Research Scholar funds judiciously and bravely to develop the idea of “network neuroprotection.” More specifically, he used this support to perform full gene arrays of neurons subjected to various episodes of metabolic insults. Not only did funding support the principal investigator (PI), but also two young scientists, Drs. Janet Guo and Changhong Xing, whose research is in the same field.

For almost two decades, almost all neuroprotective strategies have focused on single mechanisms and single targets.
Dr. Lo’s basic hypothesis is that this approach will result in neurons that are alive but not normal. His pilot data suggested that by using whole gene arrays, we may be able to catalog entire functional networks of neurons after damage and rescue. This first year, he has continued to build on these data. Via collaborations with the Broad Institute, he is now defining specific gene networks that might be involved in neurovascular injuries after stroke.

Despite dwindling funds from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) over the past ten years, Dr. Lo hopes to continue to collect new data and build his case. Eventually, he hopes to present this new “network neuroprotection” idea directly to the director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), where he is currently a Jacob Javits Neuroscience Investigator. He plans to leverage the Rappaport-supported science into a large new multi-PI grant application within the next two years.

Dr. Lo received the prestigious Thomas Willis Award for basic science investigations and management of stroke from the American Stroke Association at its International Stroke Conference 2013. The Willis Award recognizes an American Heart Association Stroke Council Fellow who has “actively engaged in and has made significant contributions to basic science research (animal/cell models) in stroke.”