Indian American scientist wins 2018 Blavatnik Regional Awards for Young Scientists

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Shruti Naik (Courtesy: Naik Lab)

An Indian American scientist, Shruti Naik, who works as an Assistant Professor in the New York University School of Medicine, is one of the winners of the 2018 Blavatnik Regional Awards for Young Scientists.

Naik was nominated in the Life Sciences category for demonstrating that skin stem cells retain a “memory” of previous inflammatory experiences, allowing for a more robust and rapid response to subsequent injury, according to a press release.

Since skin tissue is sustained by pools of long-living epithelial stem cells, Naik discovered that the exposure of these stem cells to noxious stimuli can induce an inflammatory “memory” that alters stem cells’ genetic landscape and makes them respond more quickly and robustly to a subsequent insult.

According to a press release, Naik has also found that exposure to inflammation increases the accessibility of the cell’s DNA in regions that are associated with stress responses and in turn, these “poised” stem cells more quickly trigger inflammatory gene expression after a second injury.

This discovery may help the development of better treatment for a variety of skin conditions in the future.

Another Indian American scientist, Priyanka Sharma, from Stony Brook University, was a finalist in the Chemistry category. She was recognized for her pioneering work on the low-cost conversion of untreated biomass to carboxycellulose nanofibers, which have applications in biomedicine and water purification.

The Blavatnik Regional Awards have been supporting outstanding postdoctoral scientists from academic research institutions across New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut since 2007 and they pay tribute to researchers in three scientific disciplinary categories: Life Sciences, Physical Sciences & Engineering, and Chemistry.

According to a press release, 125 nominated researchers competed for the total 9 awards at stake this year.

The winners and finalists will be honored at the New York Academy of Sciences’ annual gala in New York on November 5, 2018. The winners will be awarded $30,000 and finalists will be awarded $10,000.

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