Swetha Gowrishankar

    Email Address: swethag@uic.edu
    College: Medicine Department: Anatomy and Cell Biology
    Title: Assistant Professor
    Office: 7055 COMRB Phone: 3129966612
    Participating in the Chancellor’s Undergraduate Research Awards program: Yes

    Research Interest:
    Neuronal cell biology, lysosomes, Neurodegeneration, Alzheimer’s Disease.

    Lab website: http://gowrishankar.lab.uic.edu

    Lysosomes are degradative organelles, whose function is critical for protecting long-lived cells such as neurons from the build up of misfolded proteins and damaged organelles. Altered lysosome function is associated with numerous neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease (AD), Parkinson's disease and hereditary spastic paraplegia (HSP). However, the molecular mechanisms underlying their involvement are not known. My previous work investigating the cell biology of amyloid plaques in AD led to the discovery of an unexpected heterogeneity of neuronal lysosomes: unlike lysosomes in neuronal cell bodies, those in neurites are deficient in luminal proteases and thus lack degradative capacity. Furthermore, I found that perturbing transport (and maturation) of the axonal pool specifically exacerbated Alzheimer's plaque pathology.

    My lab will now focus on understanding how these distinct lysosomal pools form, interact and function in the different parts of the neuron and how their dysfunction causes and/or exacerbates neurodegenerative diseases. Using a multidisciplinary approach (imaging, proteomics and CRISPR-Cas9 mediated perturbation in both primary mouse neurons and IPSC-derived neurons), the lab will identify the defining molecular composition of these distinct lysosomal populations, factors that uniquely (or differentially) regulate them and the molecular basis for their differential responses to stresses. We will also interrogate mechanisms underlying lysosome dysfunction in hereditary spastic paraplegia and Alzheimer’s Disease.

    Minimum time commitment in hours per week: Commit to 16 hours/week, in chunks of 3-5 hours for 4 semesters.

    Qualifications of a Student:
    Prefer sophomore year in college, completion of 2 or more lab classes, prefer but do not require honors college participation. Minimum science GPA 3.0

    Brief Summary of what is expected from the student:
    guidance. Must be willing to work hard, be responsible, organized and professional. Commit to 16 hours/week, in chunks of 3-5 hours for 4 semesters.

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