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NextGen Precision Health Neuroscience Seminar – May 1, 2023


The goal of the NextGen Precision Health & Neuroscience Science Seminar is to highlight transdisciplinary precision research taking place in the field, provide opportunities for collaboration among researchers to build their own research efforts and promote clinical/researcher activity across the University of Missouri System and our partners.

For questions about this event, please reach out to Veronica Lemme at


"Understanding Adaptive and Vulnerability Patterns in Neurodegeneration

Presented by: Smita Saxena, PhD, Professor, Department of Neurology, Inselspital, University of Bern, Switzerland

Date: May 1, 2023, 4-5 p.m.

Location: Tom and Linda Atkins Family Seminar Room, Roy Blunt NextGen Precision Health Building

Virtual option available

Register here



Neurodegenerative diseases can involve decades-long preclinical phases of subtle pathologies followed by relentlessly progressing neurodegeneration. Any intervention that could delay clinical disease onset would have dramatic consequences on the burden of disease, but the mechanisms that influence early progression processes are poorly understood. Further, dissecting disease-relevant causality relationships has remained challenging, mainly due to the inherent difficulties in discriminating underlying causes from adaptive consequences and harmless epiphenomena during the slowly progressing early phases of disease in vivo. Our lab focuses on elucidating precise and distinct neuronal vulnerability mechanisms governing motor neuron disease and spinocerebellar ataxia type-1. This presentation aims to provide evidence from our recent research employing state-of-the-art techniques that uncover mechanisms associated with homeostatic compensations as well as pathological responses that ultimately govern spatial and temporal kinetics of disease progression. Notably, the talk also will highlight how modulating those identified responses can alleviate neuropathology as well as provide neuroprotection.

Speaker BioSmita Saxena

Research efforts in Dr. Saxena’s lab are primarily focused on understanding pathomechanisms that drive neurodegeneration from circuits to molecular and cellular pathology. Her lab is interested in examining how changes in cerebellar circuitry modulate or initiate degeneration in SCA1, a fatal cerebellar ND that results in progressive ataxia, dysarthria and the degeneration of cerebellar neurons. Employing conditional mouse models, proteomics, transcriptomics, pharmacogenetics, connectomics, in vivo calcium imaging and behavioral readouts, Dr. Saxena’s team is deciphering how early alteration in the cerebellar circuitry governs disease onset and progression. Another major area of research in her lab is in generating human iPSC-derived in vitro models of ALS, a fatal motor neuron disease that results in paralysis and death typically within four to five years of disease onset. Finding efficacious therapy for ALS, most cases of which are sporadic and genetically heterogeneous, has been hampered by the lack of relevant pre-clinical models. Dr. Saxena’s lab’s aim is to derive human motor neurons from skin fibroblasts of both familial and sporadic ALS as well as control patients using cellular reprogramming. This undertaking will provide a relevant ALS platform to screen small molecule compound library and identify molecules that are able to reduce cellular and axonal-stress and protect motor neurons from degeneration.