(June 12, 2018) -- Astrid Cardona is an associate professor of biology at The University of Texas at San Antonio. Her work involves studying diseases of the brain, specifically those that cause inflammation and degeneration.
Cardona is also a member of the South Texas Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases, which was established at UTSA to focus state and national resources on the fields of molecular microbiology, immunology, medical mycology, virology, microbial genomics, vaccine development and biodefense.
The center, including Cardona’s laboratory, serve an important role in the understanding of brain health disorders as well as an opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students to experience hands-on research at a high level.
We recently sat down with Cardona to learn more about her work at UTSA.
How would you describe your current research? Why did you decide to focus on this topic?
We study inflammatory processes that occur in the brain as a result of chronic diseases, with a particular focus on multiple sclerosis and diabetic retinopathy. Our goal is to understand a communication system, between neurons and the resident brain macrophages also known as microglia, that can be harnessed as an anti-inflammatory pathway to alleviate tissue damage.
Microglia’s primary role is to clean up debris, acting as housekeepers of central nervous system tissues, but microglia are typically considered responsible for promoting inflammation and exacerbating brain damage. It is still unclear how microglial properties are regulated to support tissue destruction or repair. Our goal is to understand how nerve cells and microglia communication can be regulated to block the detrimental actions of microglia.
Neuroinflammation has been always an intriguing topic for me and due to my early interest in science, since my high school years, I have guided my training in various aspects of the interaction of the immune system with brain cells.
What is one experience as a professor or researcher that has inspired you?
Having the opportunity to meet patients, students, family members of colleagues and co-workers that are afflicted by these types of diseases and the impact on their daily lives. The appreciation of these individuals for our efforts in research and their engagement, doing what they can to support each other, is an inspiration and gives a deep meaning to what we are trying to accomplish in the lab. When I hear them say, “Thank you for what you are doing,” it reminds me that our important work must continue.
What’s one token of advice you would give your younger self?
Do not be afraid to ask for financial guidance. Financial challenges were a recurring theme when growing up, so I do wish I had asked for help on that aspect much earlier.
What advice do you have for a student considering joining your field?
Be intentionally critical when considering why you want to join the field of academia and research. Working with others and establishing productive collaborations will be an important part of your success.
Criticisms and addressing critiques from others becomes an integral part of the professional life, therefore is important to be well prepared for that and become proficient in how to respond to various forms of input. Finally, outstanding communication skills (oral and written) will be among the best tools you will put to work routinely.
What is an important aspect of in your field that is becoming more appreciated?
Multiple sclerosis affects many different organs and patients experience such a varied symptomatology that impacts the quality of life for the patients and the families. There are so many areas that we still need to tackle to provide better outcomes in patients, for example, pain management, depression, coping with emotional changes, cognitive changes, seizures.
It has also become apparent that lifestyle choices also affect disease susceptibility. Diet, exercise and smoking play an important role, but the main challenge we have is figuring out the outcomes when the genetic makeup of a person and the way of living come together. Predicting good and bad combinations when the genes and the environment come together has been an interesting area of study, and filling this gap will continue to be on the frontlines of research.
Do you have a favorite quote?
“Every minute of our day brings the opportunity to do our jobs better and become a better version of ourselves.” – Matthew Kelly
Learn more about Astrid Cardona’s laboratory.
Learn more about the UTSA South Texas Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases.
In honor of UTSA's 50th Anniversary in 2019, the university is hosting Roadrunner Days Spring Edition - two weeks of semester-launching activities built around our deeply held values of student success, student involvement, community service and fun!Various locations, Main and Downtown Campuses
The UTSA Department of Physics and Astronomy invites everyone to its monthly lecture and stargazing event (weather permitting).Flawn Building (FLN 2.02.02) and Curtis Vaughn Jr. Observatory, 4th floor of Flawn Building, Main Campus
All UTSA students, faculty, staff, alums & families are invited to march as a unified community. Register here: bit.ly/2TYbHbR. Shuttles will be provided from the Main and Downtown Campuses.Martin Luther King, Jr. Academy, 3501 MLK Dr., San Antonio
UTSA's John Nix invites the community to sing "Amazing Grace" and “We Shall Overcome” at 11 a.m. on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The intent of this nationwide effort is to honor Dr. King's legacy and to spread a sense of community in the United States.Locations throughout the United States
Opening Reception got exhibit featuring artists Miguel Aragon, Aaron Coleman, Sandra Fernandez, Annalise Gratovich, Marco Hernandez, Kristen Powers Nowlin, & Patricia Villalobos EcheverriaMain Art Gallery, Arts Building (ART 2.03.04), Main Campus
Tracy Cowden, Roland K. Blumberg Endowed Professor in Music and chair of the UTSA Department of Music launches the UTSA 50th Anniversary Scholars Speaker Series with Music as Medicine: The Power and Influence of Music on our Health.Radius Center, 106 Auditorium Cir. #120, San Antonio
UTSA African American Studies Program presents this series featuring Walter M. Kimbrough, president of Dillard University.Student Union Retama Auditorium (SU 2.02.02), Main Campus)
Join fellow Runners to walk for 10 minutes on the Main Campus. The event reminds us of the importance of exercise, diet and healthy habits in protecting our hearts.Outside the North Paseo Building, Main Campus
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