Home » REC Scholar Spotlight – Dr. Ling Wu

    REC Scholar Spotlight – Dr. Ling Wu

    REC Scholar Ling Wu’s path to Alzheimer’s research is a great example of the variety of interests and backgrounds that can lead to contributions in this field. She is originally from China and completed her medical degree in psychiatry and mental health at Hunan Medical University. Wu came to the U.S. to pursue her PhD in Molecular Medicine with a focus in molecular cardiology, through a joint program at Cleveland State University and the Cleveland Clinic Foundation Lerner Research Institute. She then completed a postdoctoral research fellowship in cardiovascular medicine at the University of Washington under the direction of Dr. Michael Chin.

    In the end, it was Wu’s interest in chronic disease research, including cardiovascular medicine, diabetes, obesity, and neurodegenerative diseases, that led her to study Alzheimer’s disease (AD). With a medical background in psychiatry, mental health, and neurology, she naturally transitioned into Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD) research. When asked what drew her to this field, Wu’s top reasons include “the worldwide aging problem and the great need to understand disease mechanisms, develop tools for early diagnosis, and develop effective drugs for treatment.”

    In 2021, Wu accepted a position as a Research Assistant Professor at North Carolina Central University (NCCU)’s Biomanufacturing Research Institute and Technology Enterprise (BRITE), which has a strong tradition of translational research and houses advanced research facilities. She currently studies biomarkers for early AD diagnosis in Dr. Bin Xu’s lab. Xu’s team conducts translational research in AD biomarker discovery, biomarker development, and drug discovery.

    It was here that Wu first became connected with the Duke/UNC Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC). Xu had established collaborations with ADRC Cores, including the Neuropathology Core and the Clinical Core, whose Duke facilities are only a short drive away from NCCU. Through these connections with the Duke/UNC ADRC, Wu found out about the REC Scholar opportunity, applied, and was selected to be part of the inaugural cohort in 2022. Her REC project is entitled, “New Biomarkers for Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Tauopathies Diagnosis”.

    Now, nearing the end of her 2-year term as a REC Scholar, Wu has been able to develop her own research collaborations with Dr. Jerry Wang of the Neuropathology Core and Dr. Andy Liu of the Clinical Core, who in addition to partnering on projects, have provided her with feedback and guidance on her work. Wu also plans to partner with Data Management and Statistics Core leader Dr. Sheng Luo on upcoming analyses.

    As a REC Scholar, Wu presented her research at the first two annual SLAM DUNC (Symposium for Learning about Alzheimer’s disease-related Medical Research at Duke and UNC) events sponsored by the Duke/UNC ADRC, and held at Duke University in 2022 and University of North Carolina at Pembroke in 2023. She has also given talks on her research at the REC (Research Education Component) Core’s monthly virtual IDEAS Forums.

    Wu shared that her most rewarding experience from her interactions with the ADRC thus far has been applying for and winning her recently awarded NIH RO3 grant. In addition to this, through her participation in the REC Scholar program and connection to the ADRC, Wu’s career development has been supported by the valuable advice and mentoring of the REC Core leaders, associated faculty, and members of her REC Scholar mentor committee. Wu shares, “The REC Scholar program helped me to be more productive and to obtain an NIH research grant. I benefitted greatly from the REC Scholar program. Many of the Core faculty members are distinguished researchers and physicians. I learned a lot from them, as their expertise covers a broad range of aspects of Alzheimer’s research.”

    Through her research and collaborations with the ADRC, Wu has discovered several new phospho-tau epitope-based molecular biomarkers, which have the potential to be further developed for translational applications, such as early AD diagnosis or for tauopathy differentiation. During her time as a REC Scholar, she published three first-author papers on these findings in Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience, ACS Chemical Neuroscience, and Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.

    As her time as a REC Scholar draws to an end, Wu plans to seek a regular faculty position in the Triangle area. She aims to independently and/or collaboratively develop major research programs, or to play a significant role in a consortium of AD and ADRD research. As she looks back, Wu feels her time as a REC Scholar has set her up for success in her future career: “My time as a REC Scholar greatly facilitated my career plan as I can readily extend and expand my current project with most of the required sources and collaborations in place.”

    Clearly, the collaborations Wu formed as a REC Scholar will continue beyond her participation in the program, informing and enriching her ADRD research for years to come. You may read more about the Duke/UNC ADRC REC Scholar program here.