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Aparna Shah

Collegiate Assistant Professor
Aparna Shah
210 Drillfield Drive, Sandy Hall 314
Blacksburg, VA 24061
MC 0719

I joined Virginia Tech as an Assistant Professor in 2021 after completing a Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Department of Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University. I received my PhD in Pharmacology (Neuroscience Track) from UT Health San Antonio, my Master's degree in Life Sciences (with a specialization in Neurobiology), and Bachelor's degree in Life Sciences and Biochemistry from University of Mumbai, India. My research interests focus on the neurobiology underlying psychiatric disorders. As an educator, I am eager to prepare students to enter the workforce as confident and creative problem-solvers. My ultimate goal is to help students understand the scientific method, communicate neuroscience effectively, and develop healthy skepticism as well as an analytical worldview. I am also an advocate for evidence-based and student-centered teaching strategies, and will be conducting biology education research in the coming years.

As a graduate student at UT Health San Antonio I investigated the biological pathways underlying antidepressant and anxiolytic effects of vagal nerve stimulation (VNS). VNS is an FDA-approved therapy for patients who are diagnosed with treatment-resistant depression (TRD) due to their non-responsiveness to classical antidepressant drugs. Despite its use in the clinic, the biological rationale for the therapeutic effects of VNS remained unclear. I conducted studies in rats using VNS devices similar to those used in the clinic and showed that unlike traditional antidepressant drugs, VNS therapy recruits multiple biological pathways that may work in synergy to elicit anxiolytic and antidepressant effects. This provides an explanation for its effectiveness in treating patients with TRD. As a postdoctoral fellow, I extended my focus to the microRNA system. Specifically, I investigated the roles of a microRNA-degrading enzyme called the translin/trax (TN/TX) complex in the brain and periphery. By characterizing a Translin knockout mouse model I discovered that global deletion of this enzyme leads to a range of phenotypes, such as elevated adiposity and enhanced amphetamine-induced hyperlocomotion. As this enzyme regulates microRNAs that can in turn regulate neuronal function and synaptic plasticity, my most recent work focused on investigating its role in psychiatric disorders where these phenomena are known to go awry.

Journal Publications

  • Fu, X., Shah, A. P., Keighron, J., Mou, T. M., Ladenheim B., Alt, J., Fukudome, D., Niwa, M., Sawa, A., Cadet, J-L, Rais, R., Tanda, G., Baraban, J. M. (2021) Increased amphetamine-induced hyperactivity in translin (Tsn) KO mice is driven by adiposity. Transl Psychiatry 11, 427
  • Sarabipour, S., Hainer, S. J., Arslan, F. N., de Winde, C. M., Furlong, E., Bielczyk, N., Jadavji, N. M., Shah, A. P., Davla, S. (2021) Building and sustaining mentor interactions as a mentee. FEBS J.
  • Sarabipour, S., Hainer, S. J., Furlong, E., Jadavji, N. M., de Winde, C. M., Bielczyk, N., Shah A. P. (2021) Writing an effective and supportive recommendation letter. FEBS J.
  • Auer, S., Haelterman, N., Weissgerber, T. L., Erlich, J. C., Susilaradeya, D., Julkowska, M., Gazda, M. A., Abitua, A., Niraulu, A., Shah, A., et. al. (2021) Reproducibility for everyone: a community-led initiative with global reach in reproducible research training. eLife, 10:e64719
  • Tuday, E., Nakano, M., Akiyoshi, K., Fu, X., Shah, A. P., Yamaguchi, A., Steenbergen, C., Santhanam, L., An, S. S., Berkowitz D. E., Baraban, J. M, Das, S. (2021) Degradation of premature-miR-181b by the translin/trax RNase increases vascular smooth muscle cell stiffness. Hypertension, 78, 831-839.
  • Fu, X., Shah, A. P., Li, Z., Li, M., Tamashiro, K. L., & Baraban, J. M. (2020). Genetic inactivation of the translin/trax microRNA-degrading enzyme phenocopies the robust adiposity induced by Translin (Tsn) deletion. Molecular Metabolism, 101013.
  • Shah, A. P., Johnson, M. D., Fu, X., Boersma, G. J., Shah, M., Wolfgang, M. J., Tamashiro, K. L., & Baraban, J. M. (2020). Deletion of Translin (Tsn) induces robust adiposity and hepatic steatosis without impairing glucose tolerance. International Journal of Obesity, 44(1), 254–266.
  • Tuday, E., Nomura, Y., Ruhela, D., Nakano, M., Fu, X., Shah, A., Roman, B., Yamaguchi, A., An, S. S., Steenbergen, C., Baraban, J. M., Berkowitz, D. E., Das, S. (2019). Deletion of the microRNA-degrading nuclease, translin/trax, prevents pathogenic vascular stiffness. American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology, 317(5), H1116–H1124.
  • Chern, Y., Chien, T., Fu, X., Shah, A. P., Abel, T., & Baraban, J. M. (2019). Trax: a versatile signaling protein plays key roles in synaptic plasticity and DNA repair. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 159, 46–51.
  • Fu, X., Shah, A., & Baraban, J. M. (2016). Rapid reversal of translational silencing: Emerging role of microRNA degradation pathways in neuronal plasticity. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 133, 225–232.
  • Shah, A. P., Carreno, F. R., Wu, H., Chung, Y. A., & Frazer, A. (2016). Role of TrkB in the anxiolytic-like and antidepressant-like effects of vagal nerve stimulation: Comparison with desipramine. Neuroscience, 322, 273–286.
  • Shah, A. , Carreno, F. R., & Frazer, A. (2014). Therapeutic modalities for treatment resistant depression: focus on vagal nerve stimulation and ketamine. Clinical Psychopharmacology and Neuroscience: The Official Scientific Journal of the Korean College of Neuropsychopharmacology, 12(2), 83.
  • Shah, A. , & Frazer, A. (2014). Influence of acute or chronic administration of ovarian hormones on the effects of desipramine in the forced swim test in female rats. Psychopharmacology, 231(18), 3685–3694.
  • Li, J.-X., Shah, A. P., Patel, S. K., Rice, K. C., & France, C. P. (2013). Modification of the behavioral effects of morphine in rats by serotonin (5-HT) 1A and 5-HT 2A receptor agonists: antinociception, drug discrimination, and locomotor activity. Psychopharmacology, 225(4), 791–801.
  • Roth, M. K., Bingham, B., Shah, A., Joshi, A., Frazer, A., Strong, R., & Morilak, D. A. (2012). Effects of chronic plus acute prolonged stress on measures of coping style, anxiety, and evoked HPA-axis reactivity. Neuropharmacology, 63(6), 1118–1126.
  • Furmaga, H., Shah, A., & Frazer, A. (2011). Serotonergic and noradrenergic pathways are required for the anxiolytic-like and antidepressant-like behavioral effects of repeated vagal nerve stimulation in rats. Biological Psychiatry, 70(10), 937–945.

Book Chapters

  • Baraban, J. M., Shah, A., & Fu, X. (2018). Multiple Pathways Mediate MicroRNA Degradation: Focus on the Translin/Trax RNase Complex. In Advances in Pharmacology (Vol. 82, pp. 1–20). Academic Press.
  • Patton, M. H., Shah, A. P., & Mathur, B. N. (2016). Alcohol Effects on the Dorsal Striatum. In The Basal Ganglia - Novel Perspectives on Motor and Cognitive Functions (pp. 289–315). Springer International.

List of my published work on Google Scholar

  • NEUR 2025 Intro to Neuroscience I
  • NEUR 2026 Intro to Neuroscience II
  • NEUR 3084 Cognitive Neuroscience
  • NEUR 3984 Brain-Body Interactions in Health and Disease