Funded Researcher Niraj Shanbhag, MD

Funded Researcher Niraj Shanbhag, MD

Getting the chance to work with patients
with Alzheimer’s disease was what first motivated me to even do this research in
the first place, so seeing how difficult this disease is not only for the
patients but certainly at least as much for their families and their caregivers,
it made me really excited to join a lab that was working towards finding cures
and treatments. The funds have already been very useful for
me, so a lot of the work I do involves developing new ways of looking at
DNA damage and new ways of imaging it with a microscope, and sometimes that takes a
lot of buying a lot of tools and reagents, and just testing them and
seeing what works and what doesn’t work. I’ve already been able to to test
a lot of antibodies, for instance, and to see how best to image to view double-strand breaks in mouse and human tissue. So I think, but sort of more
generally, these funds are really allowing me to pursue the questions I
have with the most current technology. The most current technology, the best
reagents, and in the most rigorous way possible. My eventual goal is to take
this forward and to develop a larger, independent research program, that I can
like start my own lab as faculty somewhere where I can still continue to
see patients with dementia but also have my own research group answering
questions. One of the things I have become interested in since
joining the lab is better diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. disease. So, when patients come into the clinic,
oftentimes when you’re first seeing a patient, you have no idea what they have,
and it can be really hard to make a diagnosis, especially if they’re just
developing some early symptoms, and if you want to start a treatment, ideally
you want to start it as early as possible so that the sooner we can
recognize and diagnose things like Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias,
sooner we can start treatment. So in collaboration with one of the genetics
labs here at UCSF, I’m working on developing new ways to detect
Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias in the blood. So, the eventual idea,
sort of the pie in the sky idea is that one day a patient comes into the
dementia clinic, has their blood drawn, and we can make a diagnosis sort
of right off the bat. The things that get me most excited are,
certainly what I’m working on is DNA damage in Alzheimer’s disease, but
there’s a lot of that same research going on elsewhere, and I think to
me that’s what’s most exciting. So how is DNA affected in Alzheimer’s
disease and how does that affect the health of the neurons that
it’s in. I think it’s a pretty new area in Alzheimer’s disease, especially
looking at these double-strand breaks, the specific type of DNA damage, and I
think it’s an exciting area because I think it offers promise for a new
way to intervene therapeutically.

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