Gunawardena Lab is featured by UB Seen

Kelsey Swinter, a master’s student in biological sciences, examines fruit flies through a microscope.

Kelsey Swinter, a master’s student in biological sciences, examines fruit flies through a microscope.

How does a fruit fly teach us about Alzheimer’s Disease?

Shermali Gunawardena's research focuses on how genetic mutations in the fruit fly can lead to “traffic jams” in the brain's transport system. Some scientists think such blockages may precede formation of plaques in certain neurological disorders. Gunawardena's work aims to inform new avenues for treating or preventing diseases such as Alzheimer’s. The Gunawardena Lab is now featured in a slideshow by UB Seen.

Where fruit flies aren’t pests

When it comes to genetics research, tiny fruit flies can teach us a lot. Studies on these insects have led to many important medical discoveries. At UB, biologist Shermali Gunawardena uses fruit flies as a simple model organism to learn about neurodegenerative diseases. Her team is interested in how vital materials are transported from one part of a brain cell to another — and what happens when this transport system goes awry. Photos: Douglas Levere

Published April 3, 2019

Faculty Profile

Shermali Gunawardena


Shermali Gunawardena.

Shermali Gunawardena


Shermali Gunawardena


Research Interests

Axonal transport and neurodegenerative disease

Contact Information

H535 Hochstetter Hall

Buffalo NY, 14260

Phone: (716) 645-4915


  • PhD, University of Arizona
  • Postdoctoral Research, University of California, San Diego

Research Summary

Within axons vital cargoes must be transported over great distances along microtubule tracks to maintain cell viability. In neuronal cells, many proteins function in sending and receiving messages, cell repair, and cell protection. My interest is to elucidate if degeneration of neurons in two neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer’s disease or Huntington’s/other polyQ diseases), is related to a defect in this long distance transport system and what mechanisms facilitate the normal transport of APP and huntingtin.

In the News

Selected Publications