Donmez Named Ellison Scholar in Aging

BOSTON (July 12, 2012) — Tufts University of School of Medicine and the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences at Tufts today announced that neuroscientist Gizem Donmez, PhD, has received the Ellison Medical Foundation’s prestigious New Scholar in Aging Award. Over the next four years, the Foundation’s $400,000 award will support Donmez’s work to investigate the cellular effects of aging on the brain.

“As we age, the cells in our bodies are less able to manage environmental stresses, including heat shock. Heat shock response is reduced in aging organisms, causing accumulation of damaged proteins, as well as abnormal regulation of cell death. The control of heat shock response is especially important in a post-mitotic tissue such as the brain, where cell death is not tolerated. These stresses lead to cellular damage that can result in neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases,” said Donmez. “I thank the Ellison Medical Foundation for supporting my work to understand how cells are less able to repair themselves as the body ages. My hope is that my work will contribute to the development of therapies to treat neurodegenerative diseases.”

The Ellison Medical Foundation New Scholar in Aging program is designed to support the research of promising investigators in the basic biological sciences who seek to understand lifespan development processes and age-related diseases and disabilities. The award provides support for new faculty during the crucial first few years of their independent research careers.

“Gizem Donmez’s work reflects our commitment to solving fundamental biomedical problems that will help unravel the ways in which diseases develop and can be overcome,” said Naomi Rosenberg, PhD, dean of the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences at Tufts University and vice dean for research at Tufts University School of Medicine. “The Ellison Medical Foundation’s grant is a testament to her extraordinary promise as a scientist and the significant contributions she will make to biomedical research and specifically neuroscience.”

Aging increases susceptibility to a variety of diseases, including the degeneration of neurons in the brain. Another research focus in Donmez’s lab is the role of sirtuin proteins in brain aging, various neurodegenerative diseases and age-related conditions in the brain. Sirtuins are molecules related to lifespan regulation, survival and stress response, which affect the pathways and molecular systems that go awry during the aging process and as a result of disease. Donmez’s lab at Tufts University uses molecular and cell biology techniques, mouse genetics, biochemistry and proteomics.

A native of Turkey, Gizem Donmez is an assistant professor of neuroscience at Tufts University School of Medicine and member of the neuroscience program faculty at the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences at Tufts. She earned her doctoral and master’s degrees from the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry and Gottingen University in Germany and her undergraduate degree from the Middle East Technical University in Turkey. She was a postdoctoral fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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