Research Faculty at MIND
Mass General Institute for Neurodegenerative Disease (MIND) laboratories are run by faculty members who also hold appointments in their respective departments at Mass General Hospital. Principal Investigators hold MD’s and/or Ph.D’s and typically supervise laboratory personnel that include MD research fellows, postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, staff scientists and research technicians. MIND laboratory research interests are diverse, yet are united by the goal of understanding neurodegenerative disease and finding and translating laboratory discoveries into treatments and therapeutics for patients.
The sense of smell may provide important clues to help identify patients with neurodegenerative diseases before their symptoms emerge. Mark Albers uses the olfactory system of mice and humans to help understand the early events of neurodegeneration in order to find ways to intervene early in the disease process before symptoms appear and distinguish early pathologic events from changes produced by aging.
Brian Bacskai uses optical techniques to ask fundamental questions in Alzheimer's disease research. Using the mulitphoton micrsocopy imaging technique, senile plaques of Alzheimer's disease can be detected and characterized in the brains of living transgenic mice. This approach was used to study a way to clear senile plaques based on immunotherapy, as well as to characterize new factors that target amyloid in preclinical development for PET imaging in humans.
Oksana Berezovska leads the Neurobilogy of Alzheimer’s disease research laboratory that studies cellular and molecular events leading to neuropathological changes in Alzheimer’s disease, with a particular focus on the synapse. The ratio of amyloid beta peptides that end in amino acid 42 as compared to amino acid 40 can be measured in the cerebrospinal fluid. An increase in the Abeta 42/40 ratio has been implicated in Alzheimer's disease (AD) pathogenesis.
Trained in clinical and basic neuroscience, Xiqun Chen studies the molecular biology of neurodegeneration in Parkinson’s disease (PD) and related disorders. Working with collaborators at MGH, the Harvard School of Public Health, and overseas, Chen’s group is pursuing the biological basis of the epidemiological link between PD and melanoma. Studies have shown that Parkinson’s patients have a higher incidence of melanoma, and that melanoma patients have a higher risk of developing PD.
Tim Clark is an Assistant Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School and Director of the Biomedical Informatics Research Core at the Massachusetts General Hospital. He also serves on the Executive Committee of the Massachusetts Alzheimer Disease Research Center, where he co-directs the Data and Statistics Core. His current research focus is on bio- and neuro-informatics, scientific social media, web annotation, and next-generation scientific publishing using semantic technologies.
Merit Cudkowicz’s research and clinical activities are dedicated to the study and treatment of patients with neurodegenerative disorders, in particular amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and Huntington’s disease (HD). Her clinical research team conducts experimental therapeutic trials of novel agents and biomarker studies in people with ALS and HD.
Marian DiFiglia is a Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School and Director of the Laboratory of Cellular Neurobiology at MassGeneral Institute for Neurodegenerative Disease. Sheleads a multidisciplinary research team investigating the role of the Huntington’s disease mutation in the molecular and cellular events leading to neurodegeneration in Huntington’s disease (HD).
Teresa Gomez-Isla has specific clinical interests in Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. She sees patients with these disorders as part of clinical evaluation and care, as well as for research purposes. There is a great need to understand the mechanisms that lead to neural system collapse and impaired cognition in Alzheimer's disease and related disorders, and to find better treatments potentially able to prevent or cure this illness.
Stephen Gomperts and his lab investigate Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and Dementia with Lewy Bodies, as well as normal brain function, using multielectrode recording techniques, optogenetics, and animal models. In clinical research, he uses PET molecular imaging to study these illnesses. He also sees patients with dementia and movement disorders in the Memory and Movement Disorder Units at the Massachusetts General Hospital.
Steven Hersch’s research focuses on Huntington’s disease (HD) and helping to develop treatments to slow or cure this fatal progressive neurogenetic disorder. His laboratory works to discover and translate potential disease modifying therapies and biomarkers from the lab to the clinic.
Brad Hyman studies the anatomical and molecular basis of dementia in Alzheimer’s disease, and Dementia with Lewy Bodies. His research includes a collaborative of several labs working on different aspects of neurodegenerative disease and dementia. He also has a clinical practice in the Memory and Disorder Unit at the Massachusetts General Hospital devoted towards the care of patients with dementia.
Kimberly Kegel-Gleason studies the normal and altered function of huntingtin (htt), the protein mutated in Huntington Disease (HD). Her early work revealed that autophagy and the lysosomal system were activated with htt accumulation in an HD cell system. More recently, she has discovered a normal association of htt with specific phosphoinositol phosphates (PIPs). PIPs are lipids present in membranes that can act to target proteins to specific sites within cells.
Dr. Doo Yeon Kim has been investigating physiological and pathological function of Alzheimer’s disease secretases, BACE1 and presenilin/gamma-secretase. He contributed to research that shows in addition to interacting with APP, BACE1 has an important role in regulating membrane excitability of brain cells cell, which may explain a higher risk of seizures in Alzheimer’s disease patients.
Clotilde Lagier-Tourenne performs patient-oriented research to understand the molecular mechanisms driving neurodegeneration in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and to develop therapeutic strategies. Mutations and/or cellular mislocalization of several RNA binding proteins have been identified as central components in the pathogenesis of ALS and FTD.
Dr. Li applies molecular genetics techniques to identify and characterize genes associated with human disease. Dr. Li’s recent work includes investigation of the functional role of UBQLN1 in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) pathogenesis; identification and characterization of novel mutations in PSEN1 and PSEN2 in dilated cardiomyopathy patients; and determination of the effects of AD-associated presenilin and multiple diseases and traits-associated SOX5 on heart development and cardiac function. Dr...
Robert Moir’s research focuses on the biochemical and cellular mechanisms of neurodegeneration in Alzheimer's disease (AD) and aging. His work has uncovered new therapeutic targets aimed at preventing the accumulation of beta-amyloid (Aβ), the primary neurotoxic agent in AD. Moir was the first to identify the low-density lipoprotein receptor protein (LRP) as the mediator of an important early step in Aβ production in the brain.
Laurie Ozelius works to uncover genetic causes for movement disorders, especially dystonias and Parkinson’s disease. Dystonias are characterized by involuntary muscle contractions that lead to slow movements or abnormal postures. Dystonias can be localized, as in writers’ cramp or torticollis, or generalized, and they often run in families.
The NeuroEpigenetics laboratory at MIND, under the direction of Ghazaleh Sadri-Vakili studies the molecular mechanisms that underlie alterations in gene expression in disorders of the nervous system using the most current molecular biology tools. Currently, their efforts are focused on Huntington’s disease (HD), Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), as well as addiction.
Michael Schwarzschild's lab investigates molecular mechanisms in mouse models of Parkinson’s disease in an effort to develop improved therapies for neurodegenerative diseases. His research extends to the clinic where he conducts trials of novel treatments with the potential to slow progression of Parkinson’s disease.
Nutan Sharma combines clinical expertise in movement disorders with research into the genetics and pathophysiology of dystonia. As founder and director of the dystonia clinic at MGH, Sharma conducts systematic clinical evaluation of patients in a longitudinal study of the natural history of dystonia. She collaborates with MIND geneticists to identify new dystonia-causing genes, by collecting families with dystonia for careful clinical characterization and DNA analysis.
Dr. Jaehong Suh studies the genetic and molecular mechanisms of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and other neurodegenerative disorders, with the aim of identifying novel therapeutic targets and developing effective treatments for patients. Suh was involved in the identification of novel mutations from late-onset AD families in the prodomain of ADAM10, a major a-secretase that cleaves B-amyloid (AB region of amyloid precursor protein (APP).
Rudolph Tanzi is the Vice-Chair of Neurology (Research) at MGH and Director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit at MIND. He is an elected "Professor Representative" to the MGH Executive Committee on Research and serves as the Chair of the Cure Alzheimer's Fund Research Consortium, for which he spearheads the Alzheimer’s Genome Project.
Charles (Chuck) Vanderburg is one of two Clinical Research Scientists in the MGH Department of Neurology’s teaching triad. As the director of the Harvard NeuroDiscovery Center’s Advanced Tissue Resource Core (ATRC) for the past twelve years, he has had an opportunity to work closely with many hundreds of neuroscientists in the Boston academic and biomedical research community.
Brian Wainger’s lab fuses electrophysiology and stem cell biology to explore how abnormal neuronal physiology contributes to diseases of the motor and sensory nervous systems. Working with motor neurons derived from ALS patients and healthy controls, Dr. Wainger performed fundamental electrophysiological characterization and identified motor neuron hyperexcitability in ALS patient-derived motor neurons (Wainger et al., 2014).
Wilma Wasco is interested in factors and events that surround the neuronal degeneration that is characteristic of Alzheimer's disease and normal aging. Her lab was involved in the identification and characterization the two presenilin proteins (PS1 and PS2), and her current focus is on identifying genes associated with the etiology of late onset Alzheimer’s disease.
Can (Martin) Zhang’s research is focused on identifying the mechanism of neurodegeneration in Alzheimer’s disease (AD), with the goal of identifying molecular targets and biomarkers that will translate into the development of novel therapeutic strategies for AD. The pathogenesis of AD is believed to be primarily driven by amyloid-B (AB), the principal component of senile plaques in the brain.