Eduardo Zimmer comes from a family of pharmacists, and the regional pharmacy council awarded his father for having the largest family in this profession. Building off his family’s skills, he pursued a master’s and doctorate in biochemistry at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, where he also earned his undergraduate degree. During his doctorate, he spent two years in Canada at McGill University. This led to an invitation to become a visiting professor at the McGill Center for the Study of Aging in 2018.
His research is helping to shed light on the role of a well-known but still obscure structure: the astrocyte, particularly in the vulnerability of the human brain. While he plans to investigate the cortex of a whale, he and his partner Fabiana also enjoy caring for their little dog, Baleia (whale), a reference to the book Vidas Secas by Graciliano Ramos. Zimmer currently teaches pharmacology at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul.
In mammals, the brain is conserved in terms of shape, cellular constitution, and function. However, the human brain is more vulnerable to neurodegeneration, the main characteristic of aging diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Other mammals, such as dogs and monkeys, seem more resistant to neurodegeneration.
This project aims to answer the fundamental question: what makes the human brain more susceptible to neurodegeneration?
Astrocytes are star-shaped cells abundant in the human brain’s regions most vulnerable to neurodegeneration. Astrocytes were once thought to be secondary players to neurons, but they are now known to be essential for complex cognitive tasks. Based on these observations, we hypothesize that astrocytes play a role in the human brain’s vulnerability to neurodegeneration.
In this project, we will characterize astrocytes in different mammals to identify the molecular and cellular differences between human astrocytes and other mammals. This knowledge will help us to understand the causes of neurodegeneration in the human brain and to develop new treatments for these diseases.