Medical student explores how gene expression molds higher brain function
UNCF/Merck Science Initiative
Benyam Kinde, 27
Harvard/MIT | Neurobiology
Graduate school: Harvard
Many people view the brain as the last frontier of human health research, says Benyam Kinde. “We still don’t know very much about how individual cells in the brain coordinate the activity of higher-level function that defines us as humans,” he says.
This mystery is one that Kinde, an M.D. and Ph.D. student at Harvard Medical School and MIT, aims to solve. He is interested in how chemical modifications of DNA affect brain function, focusing on a protein nicknamed MeCP2. When this protein is damaged or missing, it changes the activity of multiple genes and causes Rett syndrome, a disorder marked by developmental delays, seizures and autism-like behaviors.