REBECCA CACCIOTTOLO | Treating Motor neuron diseases

Updated: Dec 31, 2021

​​Meet Rebecca

I am Rebecca Cacciottolo a PhD candidate studying motor neuron diseases. From a young age I loved exploring and experimenting new things and this stayed with me as an adult. I love being creative in anything I do. Trying to implement all the unique ideas I get is something I do on a daily basis. I feel like creativity is underrated in the science world and I am here to remind people of its importance!

Treating Motor neuron diseases

In my research I make use of an innovative approach to identify novel drug targets for Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a fatal complex disease affecting the motor neurons and nerves of the brain and spinal cord. I do this by using fruit flies. Flies are close to humans due to the high degree of genetic conservation, hence making them good models to study human diseases. In the lab I induce ALS in fruit flies to study genetic interactions and how these affect the neuromuscular system of the fruit flies. In recent work, I identified a protein that interacts with three major ALS genes (Cacciottolo et al. Sci Rep 2019). In fact, disrupting this gene in ALS flies results in the amplification of ALS symptoms. Currently, I am studying the affects of stress on ALS flies by subjecting these flies to various stressors such as heat and starvation in order to learn the flies’ response to such stressors.

The Next step…

My future research plans involve performing a rescue experiment. This involves the upregulation of identified disease-modifying gene/s to test if the symptoms of ALS in the flies are ameliorated or reduced. A positive result will pave the way for the development of human therapeutics for ALS.

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