HDRF Scientist in the News!, Thursday 5 September 2019

We are proud to announce that Dr. Carla Nasca, a postdoctoral fellow with our Depression Task Force, is a finalist for the 2019 Blavatnik Award for Young Scientists.

Her work, funded in part by HDRF, has discovered that a natural chemical in the body (acetyl-L-carnitine, or LAC for short) can rewire the brain and is a possible new treatment for depression.

What’s exciting is how LAC works.  Its main function in the brain is to enhance actions of the neurotransmitter glutamate, which helps cells recover after a major stressful event.

It’s as though LAC helps jumpstart the “first responders” in the cell after the body is hit by a stress attack.  If LAC levels are low, that spells trouble and can lead to depression.

Her work brings the glutamate system into the spotlight for drug discovery. The common antidepressants on the market today focus on the serotonin system (the SSRIs), and were introduced in 1985.  Since then, targets for new treatments have been vexingly elusive.

Nasca is a molecular neuroscientist studying mechanisms of brain-body communication in regulation of mood.  She is a postdoctoral fellow at Rockefeller University in the laboratory of Dr. Bruce McEwen, a founding member of the HDRF Depression Task Force.

“I’m very grateful to the HDRF family where I have grown so much scientifically in the past several years,” said Dr. Nasca, who will move aggressively into drug discovery research.  “I hope to contribute to the HDRF mission for the many years ahead!”

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