Natalia Surzenko, Ph.D., studies the connections between nutrients and brain and eye development. Her work in this area has been as Research Scientist in the Zeisel lab since joining the NRI in 2013. In recognition of the excellence she brings to her research, Dr. Surzenko has been promoted to Research Assistant Professor.

While she will remain a part of the Zeisel lab, she will now also conduct her own research. Currently she is working on a collaborative project with a nutrition industry partner. For this project Dr. Surzenko designed a multi-component screening platform to identify bioactive molecules present in human breast milk that may affect brain and eye development. In addition to collaborative projects with industry partners, Dr. Surzenko also plans to expand current research in the Zeisel Lab related to the role of choline in brain and eye development into new directions.

These new studies are based on Dr. Surzenko’s ongoing work to understand how nutrient availability (particularly, choline) influences the generation of different types of neural cells that make up the brain and retina, the eye’s light-sensing structure. She utilizes mouse models and a variety of molecular techniques to assess how different nutrient molecules affect production of new neurons during fetal development and in the adult brain.

This October 13, Dr. Surzenko will share her research with the public in an Appetite for Life presentation. Her lecture, Diet and Brain Rejuvenation: How to Keep Brain Stem Cells Happy, will explore the elaborate functional networks of the brain and other parts of the nervous system that allow us to go through daily life. The types of cells that produce neurons during brain development and in adulthood are termed “stem cells.” The same environmental factors that influence stem cells and brain development during childhood also determine how many new neurons are made in the brains of adult and aging individuals. Among these are nutrients and vitamins present in our daily diets. Registration for this presentation will open soon. Be sure to visit uncnri.org/afl for all Appetite for Life events.

After completing her Ph.D. in Neurobiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2010, Dr. Surzenko received her postdoctoral training at Harvard Medical School in the Department of Genetics.