Skip to main content

LabTV: Young Scientist on a Mission to Cure Alzheimer’s Disease

Posted on by Dr. Francis Collins

Melissa Young LabTV

Time for another LabTV video! Today, I’d like you to meet Melissa Young, a third-year graduate student in the College of Pharmacy, University of Georgia, Athens. Young, who is doing research in the lab of James Franklin, says her scientific goal is to help build the scientific case that oxidative stress plays a key role in Alzheimer’s disease.

Young also has a personal reason for wanting to her research to succeed. From her experiences with a beloved grandmother and aunt, she has seen first-hand the heartbreaking effects of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia on both patients and their loved ones. Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease and no treatments to halt or reverse its progression. That’s one of the reasons why Young has chosen to go into an area of science focused on translating basic discoveries into new therapeutics.

Another motivation for Young’s decision to pursue a scientific career is that she’s a hands-on person who hates to sit around for hours staring at a computer screen. Working in a lab allows this native of Greenville, NC to channel her boundless energy in creative and challenging ways. Under the guidance of her graduate adviser, Young is learning how to ask thought-provoking questions, design experiments aimed at answering those questions,  run experiments, analyze the results, and maybe, if lucky, celebrate success—if not, learn from failure and head back to the lab bench!



Franklin Lab (University of Georgia, Athens)

Science Careers (National Institute of General Medical Sciences/NIH)

Careers Blog (Office of Intramural Training/NIH)

Scientific Careers at NIH


  • Lane Simonian says:

    Well-done Melissa Young. I lost a cousin and an aunt to Alzheimer’s disease. My mother had Alzheimer’s disease but eventually died from severe esophagitis and heart failure. I understand the sorrow that comes from the disease and commend you for trying to find answers to help others.

    You are absolutely correct: oxidative stress plays a critical role in Alzheimer’s disease. Peroxynitrite is the principal oxidant in Alzheimer’s disease. Through oxidation, nitration, and DNA damage, peroxynitrites inhibit the synthesis and release of neurotransmitters involved in short-term memory, sleep, mood, social recognition, and alertness, inhibit blood flow and the transport of glucose in the brain which can lead to apathy, wandering, and delusions, overactivate and in some cases later deactivate NMDA receptors resulting in delusions, prevent the regeneration of neurons in the hippocampus, and reduce energy production resulting in the death of neurons.

    While it is true that there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, it is incorrect to say that their are no treatments to halt and reverse its progression. Here are two examples of peroxynitrite scavengers (eugenol in rosemary essential oil via aromatherapy and ferulic acid, syringic acid, vanillic acid, p-coumaric acid, and maltol in Panax ginseng) that have partially reversed Alzheimer’s disease in clinical trials.

    Oxidative stress is the key to understanding Alzheimer’s disease and the key to treating Alzheimer’s disease is with very powerful peroxynitrite scavengers.

  • Great topic, and good for her! Unfortunately, the sound quality is poor and it is almost unintelligble. I hope she looks deeply into my favorite journal article from March 2015:
    G. Leinenga, J. Götz, Scanning ultrasound removes amyloid-β and restores memory in an Alzheimer’s disease mouse model. Sci. Transl. Med. 7, 278ra33 (2015).

    It is time we recognized that our bodies, brains, and interconnected systems are as much electrical charges and flows and networks as physical atoms and cellular physiology. We are 3.72 Trillion cells, points of light, and electrical charges, yet we have been only using electrical modalities for diagnostics and somewhat for physical therapy in recent decades. Restoring healthy electrical patterns through resetting the body and brain’s healthy patterns of resonance and communication is the opposite of electroshock therapy, and worth concerted research. It need not be invasive if there are ways to resonate brain cells.

    Also worth a look at the earlier research of biochemist Boyd Haley on oxidative stress and Alzheimer’s Disease to rapidly advance her work. When one does path-breaking work, it is often viewed as controversial, because the prevailing mindset keeps us stuck in the past. Yet being stuck is exactly our problem in this field. Here are a few classics:

    Worley, Jeff (25 September 2003). “Boyd Haley: Tagging Toxins for Better Health”. University of Kentucky. Retrieved 7 October 2013.
    Gunnersen D, Haley B (December 1992). “Detection of glutamine synthetase in the cerebrospinal fluid of Alzheimer diseased patients: a potential diagnostic biochemical marker”. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 89 (24): 11949–53. doi:10.1073/pnas.89.24.11949. PMC 50675. PMID 1361232.
    “A Possible Alzheimer Marker Is Found”. The New York Times. 15 December 1992. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
    Pendergrass JC, Haley BE, Vimy MJ, Winfield SA, Lorscheider FL (1997). “Mercury vapor inhalation inhibits binding of GTP to tubulin in rat brain: similarity to a molecular lesion in Alzheimer diseased brain”. Neurotoxicology 18 (2): 315–24. PMID 9291481.

  • edwardmuphy says:

    This is really a good effort done by young scientists. God bless them. Anyways, thanks for sharing the nice piece of information with us. Health is the most important thing for performing daily tasks, just like entertainment. Without entertainment we get bored and ill…

Leave a Comment