Health

UTSA researchers lend their expertise to systemwide brain health summit

UTSA researchers lend their expertise to systemwide brain health summit

OCTOBER 3, 2022 — State and national thought leaders will make their way to Austin next month for The University of Texas Systemwide Brain Research Summit. The event, scheduled November 7-8, will highlight the innovative brain health research taking place across the UT System. Among those participating in the summit are three prominent professors from the UTSA Brain Health Consortium.

“Brain health impacts all of our lives,” said Jenny Hsieh, the Semmes Foundation Distinguished Chair in Cell Biology and chair of the UTSA College of Sciences’ (COS) Department of Neuroscience, Developmental and Regenerative Biology. “We are coming together to discuss what’s being done, and what’s left to do.”

Hsieh, a member of the summit’s planning committee, is the director of the UTSA Brain Health Consortium. Established in 2017, the group now boasts more than 50 of the nation’s leading brain health researchers, dedicated to conquering the greatest mysteries of the brain.

The organization has been key to elevating awareness of UTSA’s brain health research, according to Hsieh, who adds that having a seat at the table of this systemwide summit is representative of the critical mass of research taking place at the Consortium.

Joining Hsieh at the summit are Consortium colleagues Leslie Neely, associate professor in the College of Education and Human Development’s educational psychology department, and Astrid E. Cardona, professor and department chair of the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology in the COS.

Neely’s work centers on progressing the treatment of children with autism with the science of applied behavior analysis. She will be a panelist in a discussion around autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. Hsieh will moderate the presentation.

Cardona’s research is focused on understanding the mechanisms of tissue damage in Multiple Sclerosis and diabetic retinopathy, including determining the origins of tissue injury and the factors that account for disease progression. She will serve as a moderator on the panel covering neurodegenerative disorders.

Their presence at the upcoming summit demonstrates the impactful work in brain health that is taking place across the UT System—and at UTSA.

Researchers in the Brain Health Consortium collaborate on complex, large-scale research projects that will produce a greater understanding of the brain’s complexity and the factors that cause its decline. This knowledge is being used to develop new and more effective methods for treating such debilitating conditions as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, addiction and traumatic brain injury. The researchers’ expertise includes:

  • Neurodegenerative diseases
  • Brain circuits and electrical signaling
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Regenerative medicine
  • Stem cell therapies
  • Medicinal chemistry
  • Neuroinflammation
  • Drug design
  • Psychology

Hsieh expects next month’s summit to expand opportunities for researchers in the UTSA Brain Health Consortium. In addition to offering a forum where participants can share clinical and basic research advancements occurring across the system, the summit will identify challenges and opportunities to advance brain research in Texas and across the country and to foster new collaborative research programs, especially among UT System investigators.  

Hsieh also believes that the event will showcase how the UT System is driving investments into brain health in Texas, which could entice other medical and academic leaders to Texas to join the effort.

“We can leverage each other’s strengths,” said Hsieh, adding that this work has the potential to make the UT System a national hub for significant clinical and basic neuroscience research.

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