Tara Spires-Jones is an Instructor in neurology at the Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Mass, USA, and the Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass, USA, working with Brad Hyman, holder of M.D. and Ph.D. degrees, to investigate the mechanisms and reversibility of neuronal degeneration in Alzheimer’s disease. After completing undergraduate studies in 1999, she began her graduate work at the University of Oxford, Oxford, UK, on a British Marshall Scholarship and NSF Graduate Fellowship. Spires-Jones’ doctoral work focused on genetic and epigenetic interactions in cortical plasticity in two models: one of disrupted cortical development and the other of Huntington’s disease. The neurodegenerative work on questions of the degeneration of neuronal morphology and accumulation of proteins into insoluble aggregates during Huntington’s disease pathogenesis spurred her interest in neurodegenerative disease and the processes leading to neuronal dysfunction and death. Spires-Jones moved to MGH in 2004 to begin working on similar questions of degeneration and plasticity in Alzheimer’s disease. During the course of Alzheimer’s disease, neurons lose synapses and specifically dendritic spines, the postsynaptic element of most excitatory synapses in the brain. Neurons also suffer changes in neurite architecture such as curvature caused by senile plaques and axonal and dendritic swellings associated with plaque and tangle pathology. Using multiphoton imaging and other cutting-edge imaging techniques, she studies the effects of accumulation of amyloid beta into senile plaques and phosphorylated tau into neurofibrillary tangles on dendritic spines, neurite morphology, and neuronal death. She is investigating mechanisms that underlie these changes and whether treatments such as immunotherapy or targeted drug administration can reverse the damage.
Biography Updated on 1 March 2011