Research Team Members
Kevin F. Bieniek, Ph.D.Research focuses on elucidating the role of traumatic brain injury exposure on the pathophysiology of neurodegenerative disorders like chronic traumatic encephalopathy and Alzheimer’s disease by studying the relationships between sports-related and military-related head trauma, underlying burden and distribution of tau and beta-amyloid pathology, hereditary genetic risk factors and resulting neurocognitive deficits. Additional research interests include the impact of repetitive mild traumatic brain injury on the etiology and progression of TDP-43 pathology, on other concomitant neurodegenerative pathologies and on normal aging. Kevin F. Bieniek, Ph.D., also serves as the Director of the Biggs Institute Brain Bank, a comprehensive, multidisciplinary repository of central and peripheral nervous system tissues from a variety of neurodegenerative disorders.
Biological & Innovative Research, Clinical Research, Population Neuroscience
Bernard Fongang, Ph.D.Research focuses on developing new computational tools to understand the genetics, genomics and environmental factors driving Alzheimer’s diseases and related disorders. Recent studies have highlighted the association between the gut microbiome, the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin and several neurological disorders. But at the molecular level, how the gut microbiota interacts with the host to produce serotonin and the mechanisms leading to neurological disorders are still not well understood. Research interests include the relationship between serotonin receptors (structurally and functionally), the gut microbiome, the Omics (Genomics, Genetics, Proteomics, Metabolomics) and the risk of dementia, stroke and related neurological endophenotypes. Dr. Fongang’s lab is currently: (i) studying how changes in the gut microbiota are associated with risk of dementia, vascular dementia, and stroke within the Framingham Heart Study; (ii) identifying new genetic loci associated with all-cause dementia and vascular dementia within the CHARGE (Cohorts for Heart and Aging Research in Genomic Epidemiology) consortium; (iii) studying the gene expression patterns and regulatory elements associated with cerebral small vessel disease and vascular dementia; (iv) predicting novel druggable interfaces of serotonin receptors involved in Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders. These projects involve using and developing cutting-edge algorithms and software to individually study the contribution of each factor (Omics, serotonin receptors, gut microbiome) to neurological disorders and integrate the resulting information to identify profiles associated with risk of cognitive impairment, stroke and dementia with the ultimate goal of personalized medicine.
Biological & Innovative Research, Population Neuroscience
Bess Frost, Ph.D.Studies focus on the fundamental processes in cell biology that drive neurodegeneration. Employing a multi-system approach to rapidly identify, test and validate hypotheses that are relevant to human disease. Early discovery takes place in Drosophila, a model organism that is well suited for investigating issues of causality in disease processes. To determine if studies are relevant to human disease, the research complements Drosophila work with comparative analyses in postmortem human brain. A significant focus is on tauopathy. Tauopathies, including Alzheimer’s disease, are pathologically characterized by the deposition of neurofibrillary tangles composed of tau protein in the brains of affected individuals. Current objectives include investigating the cellular pathway whereby pathogenic tau mediates neuronal death and developing a novel screening platform to identify cellular mediators of prion-like tau propagation.
Biological & Innovative Research