Associate Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School; Research Associate, F.M. Kirby Neurobiology Center; Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI); Member, Broad Institute
Cure Alzheimer’s Fund Research Leadership Group
Beth Stevens is an award-winning neuroscientist whose research has transformed how neuroscientists view microglia, the brain’s immune cells. Dr. Stevens’ work has contributed to the understanding of how microglia interact with neurons to refine and eliminate the points of communication between neurons, called synapses, to shape neuronal networks in the brain. Her research has identified that the same tag-and-destroy pathway that marks synapses for elimination by microglia during development is reactivated in the Alzheimer’s brain and leads to synapse loss, which is closely correlated with cognitive decline.
In preclinical work, Dr. Stevens and her colleagues found that disabling or blocking the tag-and-destroy pathway, also known as complement, was protective against synapse loss. “Complement shows real potential as a therapeutic target,” Dr. Stevens explains. “It’s especially exciting because it’s involved at a very early point in the disease. If we could stop synapse loss early, we might be able to stop cognitive decline, or at least stave it off for several years.”
Dr. Stevens explains how microglial cells are like the Pac-Man of our brain and what makes synapses vulnerable in a video for the MacArthur Foundation upon receiving a “genius” grant in 2015.
Hear Dr. Stevens talk about her research on the developing brain and Alzheimer’s disease in this video.
To learn more about the Stevens Lab, click here.