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Haley Family Professor of Psychology & Neuroscience, Neurobiology, and Cell Biology, Duke University

Staci Bilbo was intrigued by evidence that inflammation from infections, toxins or even stress can activate the developing immune system and impact brain development, which potentially can lead to changes in brain and behavioral function throughout life. Her lab studies the way our immune system talks to our brains, particularly during early development.

There is evidence that altered brain-immune function pays a role in neurodegeneration, including Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Bilbo studies microglia—the primary immune cells of the brain—which are critical for pruning synapses in the developing brain. Her lab is interested in the signals that neurons send to microglia for impacting their function (e.g., their pruning or elimination of synapses), and whether manipulation of these signals might be able to decrease the synapse loss that is observed early in Alzheimer’s disease. 

About her most exciting career moment to date:

“I would say that, overall, it has been very exciting and rewarding to see the growing recognition for the role of microglia in brain function and in neuroimmune function more broadly in health and disease. When I started in this field, it was very often ignored, but many have an appreciation for how these two beautiful systems (nervous and immune) interact now.

“Our [CureAlz] funding has only just begun in July 2022, but we are very excited to get started and extremely grateful for the support!”

Listen to Dr. Bilbo speak about the importance of understanding sex differences in research and what makes one sex more vulnerable or more resilient to disease in this interview at the Women’s Brain Project.

To learn more about the Bilbo Lab, click here.