Abby Lauren Olsen, MD, PhD

Assistant Professor of Neurology

Biographical Sketch

Abby Olsen, MD PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Neurology at the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC. She is a graduate of Carleton College and completed her MD PhD at the University of Pennsylvania, followed by residency and fellowship training at Mass General Brigham. Dr. Olsen is the recipient of an NINDS K08 award, a Department of Defense Parkinson’s Disease Early Investigator Award, and the George C. Cotzias Memorial Fellowship from the American Parkinson’s Disease Association. Her research utilizes a combination of Drosophila and human genetics to identify novel glial genes that contribute to the pathogenesis of Parkinson’s disease and other alpha-synucleinopathies, with the long-term goal of developing glial-based therapeutics for alpha-synucleinopathies. Additionally, she studies gene-environment interactions that contribute to the disease. In the clinic, she enjoys caring for patients with Parkinson’s disease and the Parkinson’s Plus syndromes. 

Education & Training

  • Clinical Research Fellow, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Movement Disorders
  • Resident, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Neurology
  • Intern, Pennsylvania Hospital, Internal Medicine
  • MD, University of Pennsylvania
  • PhD, University of Pennsylvania, Cell and Molecular Biology
  • BA, Carleton College, Women’s and Gender Studies (biochemistry concentration)

Specialized Areas of Clinical, Research and/or Educational Interests 

  • Clinical: Parkinson’s disease, multiple system atrophy, ataxia 
  • Research: Glia in Parkinson’s disease, gene-environment interactions in Parkinson’s disease, animal models of Parkinson’s disease and other alpha-synucleinopathies 
  • Education: Mentoring of physician-scientists 

Board Certifications

  • American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology

Professional Organization Membership

  • American Neurological Association
  • American Academy of Neurology
  • Movement Disorders Society

Honors & Awards

  • NIH Loan Repayment Award, NINDS, 2020
  • Travel Award, Parkinson’s Study Group, 2020
  • NIH Loan Repayment Award, NINDS
  • Post Award, American Neurological Association, 2018
  • First Place Poster, Boston Society of Neurology and Psychiatry, 2018
  • Fellow’s Scholarship, American Academy of Neurology, 2018
  • Enhanced Resident Leadership Award, American Academy of Neurology, 2017
  • Stanly Cobb Prize, Boston Society of Neurology and Psychiatry, 2016

Selected Recent Publications

Hagemann TL, Powers B, Lin NH, Mohamed AF, Dague KL, Hannah SC, Bachmann G, Mazur C, Rigo F, Olsen AL, Feany MB, Perng MD, Berman RF, Messing A. Antisense therapy in a rat model of Alexander disease reverses GFAP pathology, white matter deficits, and motor impairment. Sci Transl Med. 2021 Nov 17;13(620):eabg4711. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.abg4711. Epub 2021 Nov 17. PMID: 34788075; PMCID: PMC8730534.

Olsen AL, Feany MB. Parkinson's disease risk genes act in glia to control neuronal α-synuclein toxicity. Neurobiol Dis. 2021 Nov;159:105482. doi: 10.1016/j.nbd.2021.105482. Epub 2021 Aug 11. PMID: 34390834; PMCID: PMC8502212.

Sarkar S, Olsen AL, Sygnecka K, Lohr KM, Feany MB. α-synuclein impairs autophagosome maturation through abnormal actin stabilization. PLoS Genet. 2021 Feb 8;17(2):e1009359. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1009359. PMID: 33556113; PMCID: PMC7895402.

Vaswani PA, Olsen ALImmunotherapy in progressive supranuclear palsy. Curr Opin Neurol. 2020 Aug;33(4):527-533. doi: 10.1097/WCO.0000000000000836. PMID: 32657895; PMCID: PMC7722007.

Sarkar S, Dammer EB, Malovic E, Olsen AL, Raza SA, Gao T, Xiao H, Oliver DL, Duong D, Joers V, Seyfried N, Huang M, Kukar T, Tansey MG, Kanthasamy AG, Rangaraju S. Molecular Signatures of Neuroinflammation Induced by αSynuclein Aggregates in Microglial Cells. Front Immunol. 2020 Jan 31;11:33. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2020.00033. PMID: 32082315; PMCID: PMC7006296.