UTHSCSA Faculty Profiles v1.0

Frost, Bess PhD

Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences
Barshop Institute

My research interest revolves around the basic neurobiology mediating brain aging and neurodegeneration. Thus far in my academic career, I have pioneered work that ignited a now prominent area of research, which is that tau, a key pathological player in Alzheimer?s disease and other tauopathies, adopts prion-like characteristics that help explain its pathological spread through the brain and the diverse disease phenotypes of the human tauopathies (Frost, Jacks et al. 2009, Frost, Ollesch et al. 2009). In addition, using Drosophila and mouse models of tauopathy, bioinformatic approaches, post-mortem human brain tissue, and advanced microscopy, I have identified disruption of nuclear architecture (Frost, Bardai et al. 2015) and subsequent widespread relaxation of heterochromatic DNA (Frost, Hemberg et al. 2014) as a novel mechanism whereby tau causes neuronal death in tauopathies, including human Alzheimer?s disease.
My laboratory currently studies fundamental processes in cell biology that drive tau-induced neuronal death. We employ a multi-system approach to rapidly identify, test, and validate hypotheses that are relevant to human disease. Early discovery takes place in Drosophila, a model organism that is well suited for investigating issues of causality in disease processes. To determine if our studies are relevant to human disease, we complement Drosophila work with analyses in postmortem human tissue. We have recently reported that decondensation of heterochromatin causes transposable element activation in neurodegenerative tauopathy, a process that we find is amenable to both genetic and pharmacological suppression (Sun, Samimi et al. 2018). We have also found that tau-induced involution of the nuclear envelope contributes to neurotoxicity through aberrant RNA export (Cornelison, Levy et. al. 2018).

11/2015 - Present Assistant Professor/Research and Not Applicable University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio, Barshop Institute, San Antonio, TX