Meet the Team
Meet our dedicated team of researchers and professionals
JianGuo Li, PhD
Dr. Li is working on the effect that dietary lifestyle has on learning and memory, brain aging and neurodegeneration. The focus of his research is the investigation of the cellular and molecular mechanisms responsible for the short term and long-term protective effect that compounds such as extra-virgin olive oil consumption has on brain aging, Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. His work combines both cellular systems and in vivo preclinical models of these disorders.
Yamini Fnu, PhD
Dr. Fnu is working on the role that microglia cells play in the development of
the tau neuropathology and cognitive impairments. Focus of her investigation is the contribution of these cells in modulating cellular proteostasis and related neuroinflammatory responses. She uses both microglia cell lines as well as microglia isolated from brain tissues together with iPSC-derived microglia from human subjects. To further her studies, she has generated mouse model with a specific microglia-inducible genetic control of protein sorting and trafficking system which is known to be involved in physiological cellular proteostasis.
Joel Weiner, BSc
Joel works on the molecular mechanisms regulating the expression level of the ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporter protein A7 (ABCA7) in different cell types such as neurons and microglia. He is interested in investigating how cholesterol and other lipids can influence the levels of this transporter. Moreover, he is looking at the role that inflammatory cytokines may have in modulating ABCA7 activity and levels in vitro systems.
Chafika project is focused on the role that the endosomal transport system
plays in the cellular homeostasis of brain endothelial cells. By using in vitro model
systems, Chafika is testing the hypothesis that external metabolic stressors to these
cells can directly and negatively influence the physiological function of the endosomal retromer complex system, which is in charge of sorting and transporting different cargo
proteins to the Trans-Golgi, the cell membrane or the lysosomal digestive pathways.
Tiffany Smith, BSc
Tiffany is working on the contribution of the 12/15-Lipoxygenase enzymatic pathway on the pathophysiology of Alzheimer’s disease. She is testing novel pharmacologic inhibitors of this protein enzyme in mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease and tauopathy. She is also responsible of our electrophysiology unit. Her work is focused on assessing synaptic function and plasticity by using brain slices of the hippocampal region. These slice preparations are routinely used for measuring long-term potentiation (LTP) and long-term depression (LTD) of synaptic strength, phenomena widely believed to underlie learning and memory.
Marybeth Curtis, PhD
Dr. Curtis’s work focused on understanding the mechanisms responsible for the development of the Alzheimer’s disease neuropathologic phenotype in individuals with Down syndrome. Her work provided the first evidence that the endosomal sorting
system, also known as the retromer complex, is downregulated in Down syndrome brain and inversely correlates with the amount of both Amyloid beta peptides and phosphorylated tau protein. She worked with an animal model of Down syndrome to elucidate the molecular mechanisms responsible for these changes. Moreover, she also
tested different drugs that target the retromer system and restore its function that could be used in Down syndrome patients.
Pierpaolo Risiglione, PhD
Dr. Risiglione’s studied the involvement of microglia in the neuroinflammatory
processes that characterize brain pathology in Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. For his work Pierpaolo used microglia cell lines that reproduce the ones that are found in the central nervous system. By challenging them in vitro with various stimuli he investigated how they react and modulate the neuroinflammation response.
International PhD Student
Luca Tagliafico, MD
Dr. Tagliafico’s work is centered on the role that non-coding small RNAs, also known as microRNAs or miRNAs, plays in the onset and development of tau neuropathology. His primary research interest is the unraveling of the molecular and cellular mechanisms by which these miRNAs regulate genes and signaling pathways that are relevant for neurodegeneration. To accomplish these goals, he is implementing both in vitro and in vivo model systems.
Viktor Garlyiev, BSc
Viktor worked primarily on the characterization of Alzheimer’s disease and matched healthy control brain samples from two independent cohorts (~120 samples each) in terms of the association of ABCA7 protein levels with markers of Alzheimer's disease (Abeta40, Abeta42, total tau, phospho tau, etc), the APOE isoforms, Alzheimer's disease-associated variants located at the ABCA7 locus and other Alzheimer's disease risk factors (e.g., TREM2, LAMP1).