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Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard

Anna Greka’s lab is broadly interested in how cells cope with challenges that disrupt the mechanisms that keep them in balance. Her team of scientists specializes in deciphering how exactly these malfunctioning mechanisms lead to disease, and how this knowledge can be harnessed to gain deeper biological insights and develop new therapeutic strategies. 

In her Cure Alzheimer’s Fund-supported research, Dr. Greka seeks to determine how exposure to specific lipids (fats) called free fatty acids exacerbates the genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease—and why microglia, the brain’s immune cells, are vulnerable to these lipids. Her lab uses CRISPR gene editing to manipulate genes of interest in microglia to identify potential new drug targets for Alzheimer’s disease. 

One of the most exciting moments of Dr. Greka’s scientific career was making a discovery that both shifts our understanding about a fundamental biological process, such as the handling of misfolded proteins inside cells, and simultaneously changes the way we approach treatment for devastating diseases called proteinopathies.  

“Cure Alzheimer’s Fund support sparked a collaboration between two investigators who…study two totally different topics: Beth Stevens, who studies immune cells in the brain, and my lab, which has been working on…membrane proteins with a focus on kidney biology. Together we teamed up to think about Alzheimer’s disease from a new perspective. We are so grateful for this flexible support from Cure Alzheimer’s Fund that may allow us to gain new insights by bringing into the field investigators like me who are not traditional neurodegenerative disease researchers. 

“(It is) a new gold era in biomedicine. Using computer-controlled robotic systems, artificial intelligence, powerful screening tools and unprecedented capabilities in gene editing, we can now hope to achieve answers to pressing scientific questions at a remarkably fast pace. At the same time, we must never forget that patients are the most important stakeholders for everything we do. We, the scientists, must serve as responsible stewards of the awesome power of biomedicine, and make sure we partner closely with our patients and the general public at every step of this journey to cure human diseases.” 

Read this profile in STAT News about what inspired Dr. Greka to become a kidney doctor, and how the “molecular sleuthing” of her mostly female lab team led to a breakthrough discovery in kidney disease that may have applications to neurodegenerative diseases. 

Watch Dr. Greka’s 2021 talk at the World Medical Innovation Forum about how protein dysfunction leads to disease, and her work building targeted therapies to treat them. 

To learn more about the Greka Lab, click here