Sources of Hope: Looking Ahead to 2024

Tufts faculty share what inspires and motivates them about the year before us—and what gives them the confidence that positive change is possible 
Man and woman look through map glasses

“What gives you hope?” That was the question Tufts Now posed to university faculty members last month as they prepared to turn the page on 2023 and welcome in the new year. We hope that their responses inspire you to consider what you’re most excited and optimistic about as 2024 gets underway.

Chris Dulla, professor and interim chair of the neuroscience department, School of Medicine 

I am very excited for the growth of research around how glial cells, in particular astrocytes, contribute to Alzheimer's disease (AD) and brain aging. Collaborations between my lab and the labs of my colleagues Giuseppina Tesco and Miranda Good are uncovering exciting connections between the vasculature, astrocytes, brain, and AD.  

Collaborations between Yongjie Yang, Alexei Degterev, and Larry Feig are showing that astrocytes can affect neurons throughout the body. Were getting closer to being able to develop novel approaches to treat epilepsy, mood disorders, and more, thanks to collaborations between Steve Moss, Jamie Maguire, and their industry partners. And finally, our work with industry partners to develop gene therapy approaches for epilepsy is making me optimistic about the future.

Hellen Amuguni, STOP Spillover project director and associate professor, Department of Infectious Disease and Global Health, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine

As we start 2024 with a new leadership team in place for Strategies to Prevent Spillover (STOP Spillover), we are excited about our vision to help avert epidemics and pandemics.

With the help of our consortium partners around the world, we are preparing countries to identify places where viruses are likely to make the jump from animals to humans, control zoonotic diseases at their source, and develop interventions that reduce risks of exposure in human populations.

Many of the high-risk interfaces for spillover are hiding in plain sight. Live bird markets in Bangladesh, wild meat markets in Cote d’Ivoire and Sierra Leone, wildlife farms in Vietnam—all are environments that create opportunity for cross-species transmission and spillover of pathogen.

Working closely with amazing country teams and government counterparts, we are making progress. In Dhaka, Bangladesh, through a partnership with poultry industry executives and in consultation with stakeholders, we have successfully rehabilitated a poultry shop through biosafety improvements. The site will be used to demonstrate to consumers how increased biosafety can mean a higher quality and more hygienic product.

In Cote d’Ivoire, we have been sampling open sewage streams for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) to show that such monitoring is possible even in places without piped sewage infrastructure. Systematic waste-stream surveillance in the future will provide an early warning system for detecting case increases in communities.

In this way, continuing Tufts’ long-standing tradition of addressing complex global health challenges gives me hope.

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