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Carmela Abraham, Ph.D.
Boston University School of Medicine
Areas of Interest:
neuroprotection, neuroinflammation, Klotho protein
Biography & Research:
Carmela R. Abraham, Ph.D., devoted her entire career to the study of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). She obtained her B.Sc. in Biology at Tel Aviv University and a Ph.D. in Neuroscience at Harvard University. She then moved to Boston University School of Medicine where she is Professor of Biochemistry and Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics. Dr. Abraham’s research is both basic and translational. The basic research focuses on understanding the pathologic mechanisms leading to cognitive decline during normal aging (the highest risk of developing AD), to AD and to other neurodegenerative diseases. Based on her findings of 38 years of studying normal aging and AD, she is now exclusively focused on finding drugs that would either prevent or alleviate the symptoms of AD. The amyloid protein that accumulates in AD plaques is toxic to brain cells. Dr. Abraham studies ways to arrest the production of the amyloid protein before it causes the irreversible damage, and also ways to protect the nerve cells that die in the disease and, thus, prevent brain dysfunction leading to cognitive decline. Her group discovered that, in vitro, the protein Klotho, whose expression decreases with age, is neuroprotective for both neurons and oligodendrocytes, the cells that produce the myelin, the insulating material that allows for the rapid communication between neurons. In vivo, overexpression of Klotho in an AD mouse model that exhibits cognitive decline and LTP abnormalities rescued the decline and improved the LTP. In a multiple sclerosis (MS) model of demyelination/remyelination, Klotho overexpression doubled the number of remyelinated axons compared to wild-type mice. Thus, elevating Klotho expression proved beneficial for both AD and MS. Since higher Klotho levels are associated with better cognition and improved remyelination, Dr. Abraham’s translational research is exploring ways to elevate Klotho expression in the brain with small molecule compounds, by Klotho activation using CRISPR-dCas9 transcriptional effector complex and by using gene therapy. Dr. Abraham was the first Rappaport fellow at the Center for Neurologic diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the recipient of the Zenith and Temple awards from the Alzheimer’s Association. Carmela directs and teaches a course entitled Molecular Basis of Neurologic Diseases for over 25 years, and has mentored numerous undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. Her research has been supported by the NIH, Alzheimer’s Association, Boston University Ignition Award, the Massachusetts Neuroscience Consortium Award, the Cure AD Fund, and Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation.