My name is Meghana Gazula, and I am a third-year undergraduate majoring in agricultural and medical biotechnology. I am working in the lab of Maj-Linda Selenica, PhD, to study the effects of TDP-43 proteinopathy on brain metabolism and the blood-brain barrier in the context of Alzheimer's Disease (AD) focusing on frontotemporal dementia, and other related dementias. In the United States, 5.8 million people aged 65 and over are impacted by Alzheimer's Disease. It ranks as the seventh largest cause of death in the US and is the primary cause of dementia in older people. Alzheimer's disease affects 60–70 million people globally. It is estimated that, in the following decades, there will likely be a noticeable increase in the number of people with Alzheimer's disease. 

My research focuses on TDP-43 proteinopathy, which is recognized as one of the key contributing pathogenic factors that correlate with early cognitive decline and severity of Alzheimer's Disease (AD) and Limbic-Predominant Age-Related TDP-43 Encephalopathy (LATE). In previous studies, our lab demonstrated that TDP-43 overexpression leads to blood-brain barrier (BBB) permeability, as shown by a considerable infiltration of mouse immunoglobulin G (IgG), CD3+, and CD4+ T cells, as well as endothelial and pericyte activation. All of which indicates the permeability of the blood-brain barrier. One of the fundamental scientific concerns in neurodegenerative diseases is how increased demand for neural activity induces blood flow and vascular responses. This study examines the effects of TDP-43 pathology progression on glial activation, BBB permeability, neuronal activity, and neurovascular coupling in a TAR6/6 mouse model. The findings presented in our study indicate that the presence of TDP-43 disease significantly impacts the neurovascular function that is essential for facilitating brain metabolic processes along with neuroprotection. Through immunohistochemistry, I will further investigate the cells necessary for BBB function, such as endothelial, astrocytic, and pericytic cells.

My academic and professional pursuits have always been motivated by a need to make a difference in people's lives, especially in the field of health care. Knowing that this research has the potential to save lives, alleviate suffering, and enhance the overall well-being of people and communities provides me with an overwhelming sense of fulfillment and purpose in my work.

Beyond the technical components of research, Maj-Linda Selenica, PhD, has fostered in me a passion for curiosity and a dedication to research. She has been one of the most impactful people in my life and always motivates me to undertake complex research topics that push me to attain excellence and reach my full potential. She has given me tools to help me reach my goals and continues to steer me to success. In my two years in Dr. Selenica's Lab, I have served as an undergraduate research ambassador and have had the privilege of presenting at multiple conferences, including the Alzheimer's Association International Conference, The Naff Symposium, The Sander's Brown Center on Aging's Markesbery Symposium, and other undergraduate research showcases.

Outside of research, I am president of Take a Tampon, a student organization that provides free and accessible menstrual hygiene products to the students at the University of Kentucky and underprivileged populations of Lexington. We are taking action to educate the public, fight the stigma surrounding menstrual hygiene, and advocate for policies surrounding period poverty to ensure equal access to essential products. This past year, we provided about 3,000 products (and counting!) to those in need. I am also one of the founding members of Helping Hygiene, a non-profit working to combat hygiene and period poverty by partnering with food pantries and shelters to provide hygiene products to individuals in underserved communities. With my passion for research and a deep commitment to making a positive impact on underprivileged populations, I am dedicated to ensuring that everyone has access to essential menstrual hygiene products while also advancing Alzheimer's disease research to contribute to a future where we can better understand and ultimately find a cure for this disease