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Ashrafi receives Ben Barres Early Career Acceleration Award

Grant to support research on neurodegenerative disorders

November 16, 2023

Ghazaleh Ashrafi, PhD, an assistant professor of cell biology & physiology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, has been awarded a four-year, $1.2 million Ben Barres Early Career Acceleration Award as part of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s (CZI) Neurodegeneration Challenge Network. The award will support her research on understanding how imbalances in the brain’s metabolism may contribute to neurodegenerative diseases.

The brain uses glucose as its primary energy source to function properly, but during a glucose shortage, the brain can use alternative fuel sources. Nerve cells and the support cells of the brain – called astrocytes – communicate with each other about the brain’s metabolic needs when glucose is scarce. Disruptions in that interaction may have negative consequences for the brain and lead to Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

The CZI Neurodegeneration Challenge Network brings together research scientists, physicians and engineers across disciplines to investigate the root causes of neurodegenerative disorders. Ashrafi is among 13 early-career investigators to receive the award, named for the late Ben Barres, an American neurobiologist who advocated for young scientists, women, mentorship and diversity in science.