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Baylor College of Medicine

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Researcher receives grant to study neurodegenerative diseases

Graciela Gutierrez

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Houston, TX -
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Trent Watkins
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Dr. Trent Watkins, assistant professor of neurosurgery and neuroscience at Baylor College of Medicine, has been awarded the collaborative Pairs Pilot Project Award by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI).

The award is part of Neurodegeneration Challenge Network created by CZI to bring together experimental scientists from diverse research fields, along with computational biologists and physicians, to understand the fundamental biology of neurodegenerative disorders. Their shared aim is to develop new strategies for the treatment and prevention of neurodegenerative diseases.

Watkins is collaborating with Dr. David Simon at Weill Cornell Medicine. Their project, “Promoting Neuronal Cell Death to Mitigate Widespread Neurodegeneration,” will focus on how neuronal death affects the progression of neurodegenerative diseases.

“This award opens exciting doors for our research, allowing us to pursue a bold new direction in neurodegeneration inspired by the fields of cancer biology and immunology. We couldn’t hope to achieve success in pushing these boundaries without this partnership with Dr. David Simon, who is one of the most innovative and rigorous scientists that I know," said Watkins.

The researchers explain that early cell death is typically limited and regional, and then spreads as the disease progresses. Their project proposes a new way to think about neuronal cell death, investigating the idea that early cell death of diseased neurons may initially serve as a protective mechanism that slows disease spread. The team also will test the hypothesis that targeting these early “pathogenic” neurons for more rapid elimination may suppress disease progression.

For a list of all awardees click here.

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