Gabrielle L. Boulianne Genetics

Neurobiologist who has used the common fruit fly as a model to study aging and human neurodegenerative diseases such as Lou Gehrig's disease and Alzheimer's.

The Story

Boulianne discovered the cause of oxidative damage to cells, using the fruit fly as a model. Fruit flies have a similar nervous system to humans and have many genes in common.

Scientists have long known that the degenerative effect over time which oxygen has on our cells is a factor in aging and lifespan. Boulianne demonstrated not only that nerve cells are a "weak link" for damage by oxidation, but that a single gene is responsible for this process. By inserting fruit flies with a human gene known to protect against oxidative damage, Boulianne and her team were able to increase the normal lifespan of the fruit fly by 40%. This has great significance in scientific understanding not only of the natural aging process, but of degenerative diseases such as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease) and Alzheimer's.

Sources: Dr. Boulianne’s website, Women at the Frontiers of Exxcellence, U of T Bulletin June 22, 1998; Image: Dept. of Medical Genetics and Microbiology, U of T.

The Person

Senior Scientist
Hospital For Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario
  • BSc, McGill University, 1982
  • PhD (Medical Biophysics), U of Toronto, 1988
  • Genetics Society of Canada Young Scientist Award, 2000
  • Medical Research Council of Canada Scientist Award, 2000
Last Updated
September 17, 2015

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