Wenyan Sun, PhD

I started my graduate training in 2008 at Xi’an Jiaotong University in China, where I finished my master’s training from the School of Medicine, followed by a Ph.D. from the School of Life Science and Technology’s Institute of Mitochondrial Biology and Medicine. My graduate studies resulted in three first-author publications. I then began a postdoctoral fellow and lecturer position at Xi’an Jiaotong University, where I worked to determine how nutritional compounds regulate mitochondrial function and homeostasis in the brain in the context of hypertension. I was awarded three grants and published four first-author and one senior author publications. It was during this time that I developed a passion for the brain, and sought to broaden my knowledge and expertise in the field of neuroscience. In 2016, I joined the laboratory of Dr. Bess Frost as a postdoctoral fellow, where I seek to understand the fundamental cell biology underlying tau-induced neurotoxicity in neurodegenerative tauopathies. Using a Drosophila model of tauopathy, I have found that tau causes a reduction in small non-coding Piwi-interacting RNAs (piRNAs), which induces a toxic activation of transposable elements. I also identified transposable elements that are increased at the RNA level in human tauopathy. This work was published in Nature Neuroscience and featured as a “research highlight” in Nature Reviews Neurology in 2018. A major focus of my current work is to translate my findings from Drosophila to mouse and human tauopathy, with the ultimate goal of developing more effective therapeutics for Alzheimer’s disease and related tauopathies.