Interview with Aparna Lakkaraju, PhD, University of California, San Francisco

November 8, 2019 0 By Stanley Isaacs

thank you for coming today um can you
please that your name is sufficient I am Aparna Lakkaraju and I’m at the
University of California San Francisco um you have a grant like that can you
tell us a little bit about your home so what we’re looking at is so my lab works
on age-related macular degeneration which is one of the most common causes
are the most common cause of blindness among older adults and we don’t really
know exactly how this disease happens how it triggers vision loss and how most
of us Asia normally while some of us go on to develop age-related macular
degeneration so what we study in the bright focus funded project is how cells
that are first affected in age-related macular degeneration release these small
packets that can send you can think of it as fiber or malware that can infect
your computers for instance so send these small packets of information that
disturb the environment in the light sensing part of the eye and then how it
causes disease and we’re also interested in figuring out a track that can stop
these cells from sending out these harmful packages of information that’s a
good way of looking at it if someone who doesn’t understand the science as well
too late that um what prompted you to become a scientist but why did you go
into it right so you know like most people who are scientists I think I was
as a child very curious about how things work my dad and I used to take apart all
sorts of things at home like the air conditioning unit don’t think I need
them back but I also used to love solving puzzles and I think science has
the best combination of that because stand how the body works how it falls
apart during disease and to figure out ways to stop that it’s like solving the
most intricate puzzle and I it also gives me a lot of personal satisfaction
because specially vision science because finding out ways to preserve healthy
vision will have tremendous real-world impact and improving the quality of life
so DDD puzzles are the candy yes I’m still very addicted to cross my glasses
I yeah yeah that’s a good hobby to have so yes can you like give us like a day
in the lab that was just like an aha so one of the most most recent things that
happen in our lab was so one thing that people with AMD have is these deposits
that happen in the back of the eye called drusen
and then there are these globs of fat and protein that accumulate and people
really don’t understand why they accumulate how they accumulate and how
they destroy our site so what if we had this crazy theory that something happens
in the first cells that are affected in age-related macular degeneration that
they just start drawing up together and then somehow this ends up forming this
truce so my graduate student tested out this
in this experiment she actually made it work we saw these these things climbing
up together and then we added a drug that could break it apart so it was
really amazing and now we are focusing more on man
yeah I mean it’s good like when you figure something out and it works
exactly so it was a completely crazy idea and it actually what I’m very
excited about it so what do you do when you’re not in the
lab like um as a hobby or some personal interest so I I love to I’m a big reader
I love to read I love to travel explore new cultures new machines
and you know go on long hikes and things like that but most of the time right now
out of the lab is spent with my 11-year old daughter we we do pottery together
we play a badminton we learn the violin together she’s better than me and all of
those things yeah so that’s I understand that you do some public outreach how can
you smile a bit more about that so it actually came up so before I moved
to the University of California San Francisco I was at the University of
wisconsin-madison and there I began to speak a lot to non science audiences
like the defense health initiative Wisconsin Public Television had a
Wednesday night at the lab series where scientists would come and give talks to
lay audiences that would then be broadcast at a public local public
television channel and I really began to enjoy my interactions with people
explaining what we do in the lab in a way that wrong scientists find easy to
grasp I found those interactions very rewarding and it takes us out of our
ivory tower and helps us you know really think about why you’re doing what we’re
doing so every time that I’m given an opportunity to do that I take that and
it helps raise awareness as well and and you know people who have some of these
ideas easels they’re very scary right because I losing vision and so if they
understand exactly what’s going on I think it gives them a lot of confidence
about they know what – what’s going on right well thank you so much for taking
time to interview with us as well as me – thank you