Research Team Members

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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.

Research Areas
Biological & Innovative Research, Clinical Research, Population Neuroscience

Contact:
bieniek@uthscsa.edu
Research Profile

Radek Dobrowolski, Ph.D.

Studies focus on cell biological processes that govern neuronal protection in the aging brain with emphasis on lysosomal signaling and autophagic clearance of neurotoxic proteins and other aggregates that buildup during aging and in neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. Understanding how neuronal clearance is regulated and can be enhanced will assist in development of new strategies to promote neuronal survival during aging and prevent Alzheimer’s pathogenesis. Mouse models and cellular reprogramming techniques are used to culture human neurons in a cell culture dish to model human neurological disorders. Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs)-derived human neurons are generated to study metabolic control of stemness, differentiation, proliferation and degeneration. Based on the concept of aging cells change their metabolic rates that contribute to the onset and progression of human diseases, focus is placed on the regulation of proteostasis in the onset of Alzheimer’s during aging.

Research Areas
Biological & Innovative Research

Contact:
dobrowolskir@uthscsa.edu
Research Profile

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.

Research Areas
Biological & Innovative Research, Population Neuroscience

Contact:
fongang@uthscsa.edu