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Researching neurosciences the DeSilva Laboratory

Dr Tara DeSilva discusses her work in the field of neurosciences at the Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

Tara M. DeSilva, PhD is an Associate Professor at the Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. She serves as Vice Chair for the Department of Neurosciences, Lerner Research Institute, Cleveland Clinic. Dr. DeSilva received her PhD from the University of Pennsylvania and completed her postdoctoral training at Children’s Hospital Boston, Harvard Medical School. The main focus of the DeSilva laboratory is to understand neuroinflammatory processes that contribute to demyelinating diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, as well as neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr Tara DeSilva

The DeSilva laboratory

Research carried out in the DeSilva laboratory can be broadly divided into two categories: 1) models of development to understand regeneration, and 2) models of neurodegeneration to elucidate mechanisms of neuroprotection with a specific emphasis on how inflammatory responses alter the function of neurons, cells responsible for transmitting information in the central nervous system. The experimental questions in these research areas explore how immune cells in the central nervous system called microglia regulate development of the brain and how their functions may be altered in neurological diseases. Another major interest is to understand how glutamate signalling specific to oligodendrocytes, cells that produce myelin to form insulation around nerve fibres, contributes to myelin degradation and impacts neuronal function in demyelinating diseases.

The overall goal of these studies is to elucidate early mechanisms of disease for therapeutic intervention before overt neurodegeneration ensues. The DeSilva laboratory combines innovative brain imaging with single cell transcriptomics to detect early signs of neurodegeneration in the brain. Furthermore, these studies have extended to the visual system, which relays information to and from the brain, with utilization of retinal imaging as a non-invasive biomarker for neurodegeneration. Dr. DeSilva receives funding from the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. She serves as a grant reviewer for multiple institutions including the National Institutes of Health and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Additionally, she is actively involved in many international societies as a speaker and organizer. She participates as an organizer for the Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ACTRIMS) Young Scientist Summit every year to promote diversity and inclusion, career development, and education for early career scientists studying multiple sclerosis. Based on her scientific contributions to the field of glia, she was privileged to serve as program chair for the 2022 National American Society for Neurochemistry meeting. As program chair, she organized a committee of investigators with diverse backgrounds to ensure invited speakers and symposia reflect equity, diversity, and inclusion. At a local level Dr. DeSilva organizes a monthly seminar series to build collaborations between clinical, translational, and basic neuroscience and ophthalmic research. Dr. DeSilva is deeply committed to mentoring and providing career development for all trainees in her laboratory at all levels of education including high school, undergraduate, graduate, medical, and postdoctoral. This plan provides an important learning environment whereby graduate students and postdoctoral fellows learn leadership, teaching, and mentoring skills, while undergraduates and high school students have the opportunity to participate in research. Her past trainees have all gone on to successful careers in academia, medicine, and industry.

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