Yu is interested in investigating how endogenous stressors (i.e. metabolic reactive species, low levels ionizing radiation) lead to increase genomic instability and subsequent neurodegeneration in the human brain. Yu will aim to understand how DNA damage responses (DDR) and associated mechanisms are activated in mature neurons towards aberrant cell cycle re-entry (CCR) and/or senescence associated secretory phenotypes (SASP). These basic cellular mechanisms are associated with neurodegeneration in both ageing and neurodegenerative diseases and a better understanding of their mechanism of action will lead to important information for the diagnosis and treatment of dementias.
In the Balmus Lab, Yu is using novel technologies including CRISPR screens (in pooled and arrayed formats) in mouse and human embryonic stem cells (ESCs) or induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) to identify genes that influence neuronal CCR and SASP.
Yu hopes her work will lead to the identification of factors that can modulate initiation and progression of genomic instability in mature neurons and thus could be used to improve the lives of patients suffering from dementia in both known syndromes (i.e. Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s) as well as the general ageing population.