Among her early major discoveries, Dr. Cuervo found that autophagy is highly selective, not random as was previously thought. In addition, she and her collaborators discovered that specialized proteins guide old and damaged proteins to lysosomes for digestion, a process they dubbed “chaperone-mediated autophagy.”
Dr. Cuervo also made the major finding that autophagy slows with age. Her current research focuses on developing therapies to restore autophagy, thereby preventing the accumulation of toxic protein by-products that can lead to age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and diabetes.
“I’m very happy for the people in my lab. The team really deserved it—they are the ones who are driving the research,” Dr. Cuervo says of her election, which was announced on April 30. Dr. Cuervo is a professor of developmental and molecular biology, of anatomy and structural biology and of medicine, and is the co-director of the Institute for Aging Research. She holds the Robert and Renée Belfer Chair for the Study of Neurodegenerative Diseases at Einstein.