Katerina Akassoglou, PhD, senior investigator at Gladstone Institutes, has been elected into the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), a lifetime distinction by the world’s largest general scientific society. She is honored “for innovative work on the neurovascular regulation of inflammation and tissue repair and the identification of the molecular interface that blood proteins utilize to interact with nervous system cells.”
“AAAS is proud to bestow the honor of AAAS Fellow to some of today’s brightest minds who are integral to forging our path into the future,” says Sudip Parikh, PhD, AAAS chief executive officer and executive publisher of the Science family of journals. “We celebrate these distinguished individuals for their invaluable contributions to the scientific enterprise.”
Akassoglou’s election as an AAAS Fellow recognizes her pioneering work on the relationship between the brain, immune, and vascular systems. She discovered that when blood proteins leak into the brain, they trigger inflammation and prevent repair, contributing to neurological diseases including Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis.
Akassoglou’s research team also uncovered that the blood-clotting factor fibrin hijacks receptors on immune and nervous system cells, which triggers inflammation and, eventually, nerve damage. With this knowledge, her team developed a new immunotherapy to neutralize the toxic effects of blood in disease. In mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis, this first-in-class immunotherapy targeting fibrin protected against neuroinflammation, neurodegeneration, and disease progression.
To study the neurovascular interface, Akassoglou’s lab developed cutting-edge imaging tools that reveal, in real time, the early triggers and progression of neurodegenerative disease. Her work has ushered in a new era of research and therapeutics to neutralize the damaging effects of blood in a wide-range of neurological and inflammatory diseases.
“I am honored and humbled to be elected as a fellow of AAAS in recognition of our work on blood proteins and neurovascular regulation of disease,” says Akassoglou, who is also director of the Gladstone-UCSF Center for Neurovascular Brain Immunology, and professor of neurology at UC San Francisco. “I’m grateful to my lab members and collaborators for their immeasurable contributions to these studies over the past 20 years. Election to AAAS further encourages us to follow our curiosity about how brain diseases start and progress and we look forward to new discoveries contributing to the advancement of science.”
Akassoglou has previously received several prestigious awards, including the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the US government on outstanding scientists and engineers beginning their independent careers. She received the Barancik Prize, awarded by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society to scientists whose work in multiple sclerosis research has demonstrated outstanding innovation and originality. She is a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors and the American Neurological Association, and was named among the Most Influential Women in Bay Area Business in 2021 by the San Francisco Business Times.
The 2021 class of AAAS Fellows includes 564 scientists, engineers, and innovators spanning 24 scientific disciplines who are being recognized for their scientifically and socially distinguished achievements. Each new lifetime fellow was nominated by existing fellows, reviewed by steering groups representing individual scientific disciplines, and then voted on by the full AAAS Council.
Akassoglou becomes the fifth AAAS fellow at Gladstone, joining Gladstone President Deepak Srivastava, MD, elected in 2011; Gladstone Senior Investigator Jennifer Doudna, PhD, elected in 2008; Gladstone Senior Investigator Warner Greene, MD, PhD, elected in 2004; Gladstone Founder and President Emeritus Robert Mahley, MD, PhD, elected in 1998; and former Gladstone President R. Sanders Williams, MD, elected in 1992.
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To ensure our work does the greatest good, Gladstone Institutes focuses on conditions with profound medical, economic, and social impact—unsolved diseases. Gladstone is an independent, nonprofit life science research organization that uses visionary science and technology to overcome disease. It has an academic affiliation with UC San Francisco.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science, as well as Science Translational Medicine; Science Signaling; a digital, open-access journal, Science Advances; Science Immunology; and Science Robotics. AAAS was founded in 1848 and includes more than 250 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. The nonprofit AAAS is open to all and fulfills its mission to “advance science and serve society” through initiatives in science policy, international programs, science education, public engagement, and more. For additional information about AAAS, visit www.aaas.org.