Bianca Cotto, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow, Rockefeller University

Bianca Cotto is a postdoctoral fellow at The Rockefeller University in the lab of Nathaniel Heintz. She earned her Bachelor of Science with honors in neuroscience from Georgia State University. She then received her Ph.D. in biomedical sciences at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University. As a graduate student in the Department of Neuroscience at Temple under the mentorship of Dianne Langford, she studied the combinatorial effects of cocaine and HIV-1 Tat on astrocyte metabolic function and the subsequent dysregulation of metabolic communication between astrocytes and neurons. Currently, her postdoctoral research addresses cell-type specific vulnerabilities within the motor cortex that contribute to the development and progression of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis with a particular interest in mitochondria biology. Cotto was awarded pilot funding from the Kavli Neural Systems Institute to develop and apply a strategy to facilitate the isolation of mitochondria in a cell-type specific manner. This has allowed for the characterization of cell type-specific mitochondrial dynamics in the cortex and is the foundation for her future work.

Project: Cell-type specific approach for mitochondrial profiling toward understanding the aging brain

Mitochondrial integrity is crucial for neuronal fitness and healthy brain function. Unanimously, studies report that a tell-tale sign of aging exhibited in the brain is compromised bioenergetics and altered mitochondrial function. To date, analysis of mitochondria and their function rely mostly on bulk analysis of mitochondria without the ability to distinguish their cellular origin. The goal of my research is to map the landscape of cell-type specific mitochondrial profiles throughout aging, to discover the consequential alterations that occur within these multifaceted organelles with increasing age. I will use a multidisciplinary approach to elucidate the changes in mitochondrial composition and function in neuronal subpopulations and non-neuronal populations in a temporal manner. I will also investigate the reciprocal relationship between mitochondria and gene regulation machinery on neuronal integrity. To assess the translational insight of these studies, I will use young and old human postmortem tissue to identify previously unrecognized aged-related mitochondrial features and validate candidate pathways revealed in cell-type specific mitochondrial profiling.

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