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Biomedical Optics & Medical Imaging

Video: Studying brain malfunctions with lasers

Nozomi Nishimura explains how researchers use femtosecond laser pulses to model and study the effects of stroke and Alzheimer's in brain cells.

30 April 2010, SPIE Newsroom. DOI: 10.1117/2.3201004.05

Nozomi Nishimura is a postdoc in the lab of Chris B. Schaffer in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Cornell University. Her research involves "testing the role that blood vessel dysfunction plays in triggering Alzheimer's disease. This research will look at how clots or bleeds in the smallest blood vessels in the brain could seed the accumulation of A-beta proteins, an indication of plaque in the brain which often occurs in Alzheimer's patients."

Clinical evidence shows that ischemic and hemorrhagic microvascular lesions in the brain play an important role in elderly dementia, but few effective treatment or preventive strategies exist. This deficit is due, in part, to a lack of good animal models of these small-scale strokes that would allow the progression of disease to be studied and would provide a platform for the evaluation of therapeutics. Nishimura is currently working to turn the laser-based blood vessel clotting techniques recently developed in the lab for use in rodents into a realistic animal model of small-scale stroke. This animal model can then be used to study the progression of neural death and disease, and provide a testbed to evaluate the efficacy of therapeutic strategies.

Nishimura is one of five women scientists to receive the 2009 L'Oreal USA Fellowship for Women in Science. The $60,000 prize will allow her to continue her work on the causes of Alzheimer's disease. In addition she works at mentoring younger women in scientific careers, in part by showing her lab and what she does. Nishimura received her Ph.D. in physics from the University of Califronia, San Diego in 2006, where she worked with David Kleinfeld. Her undergraduate degree is from Harvard University, also in physics. She is a member of SPIE and has presented numerous papers at SPIE symposia, most recently Biomedical Optics at SPIE Photonics West.