Inside AFAR
Inside AFAR

Insights, Views, and Interviews

Jan 23
4:38 pm

Grantee Spotlight Interview: Hsiao-Ying Wey, Ph.D. View MoreBACK

AFAR’s grant programs in the biology of aging are central to our mission to support and advance healthy aging through biomedical research. At leading institutions nationwide, our grantees hard work, ingenuity, and leadership are advancing cutting-edge research that will help us all live healthier, longer. AFAR grantees are making this the age of aging better.

In this Grantee Spotlight interview, Hsiao-Ying Wey, PhD, shares what inspired her to enter the field of aging research and what impact she hopes her research will make thanks to AFAR’s support.

Hsiao-Ying Wey - PhD

Assistant Professor - Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School

The New Investigator Awards in Alzheimer's Disease - 2017

What inspired you to pursue aging research?
I was first introduced to research topics on age-related brain disorders during graduate school and was fascinating by the idea of investigating the underlying causes of Alzheimer’s disease. I was then surprised by how little we know about not only the pathophysiology of AD but also the physiology of healthy aging. I believe there is a lot to be learned about brain function in aging through research. Because of the increasing number of people age 65 and older in the United States and worldwide, aging research will only be more critical than ever before.

In your view, what does AFAR mean to the field, and what does it mean, for you, to receive an AFAR grant now?
To me, AFAR is a strong driving force pushing aging and Alzheimer’s disease research forward. I am grateful for the generous support provided by the New Investigator Award from AFAR. It is the most challenging time for new investigators when they begin establishing their independent research program and lab. Often, new investigators do not (yet) have enough preliminary data to compete for funding from the NIH. Pilot funding and awards are tremendously helpful to junior investigators to pursue innovative research ideas.

What’s exciting about your research’s potential impact?
My research proposed to investigate the potential role of an epigenetic enzyme, Histone deacetylase (HDACs), in Alzheimer’s disease. Compelling evidence has emerged in preclinical animal models and postmortem human tissue analyses showing that HDACs are critical mediators of aging, memory, cognition, and AD. Until our recent development of a novel positron emission tomography imaging agent, we have no way to study HDACs in the living brains. We will use the imaging tool to visualize the distribution of HDACs in patients and with the long-term goal of understanding of the relationship between HDACs expression, brain function and pathogenesis of AD. HDACs could potentially be a novel therapeutic target for drug development.

In three sentences, how would you describe your research to one of your grandparents?
I am using a new imaging tool to take pictures of the brain in healthy elderly and patients with Alzheimer’s disease. This imaging tool allows us to measure the amount of an important protein that turns on or off your DNA. We are studying if this protein could be a potential cause of Alzheimer’s disease.