Bernard Fongang, PhD
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, PhD
The research focus of Dr. Frost’s laboratory revolves around the basic neurobiology connecting toxic forms of tau to neuronal death and dysfunction. Dr. Frost’s contributions to neurodegenerative disease research have recently earned her an O’Donnell Award in Medicine from The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas as well as a Standout Achievement Award from CurePSP. The Frost laboratory has discovered that the detrimental effects of pathogenic tau on nuclear and genomic architecture activate retrotransposons and alter RNA trafficking. Through this work, they have identified multiple new targets for therapeutic development, as well as compounds that interfere with these processes and suppress tau-induced neurotoxicity. Based on these findings, Dr. Frost and her team have recently initiated a Phase IIa clinical trial, ART-AD, in which they are testing the brain penetrance, target engagement, and effects on neurodegeneration and inflammation of the reverse transcriptase inhibitor 3TC in patients with early Alzheimer’s disease.
In addition to her scientific efforts, Dr. Frost is a member of the Tau Consortium and serves on the scientific advisory board of CurePSP. Dr. Frost leads the UT Health Aging Brain Working Group, which aims to bridge the gap between basic science and clinical research.
Biological & Innovative Research
Mitzi M. Gonzales, PhD, ABPP-CN
Research broadly focuses on identifying mechanisms and biomarkers of advanced age-related cognitive decline and dementia in effort to aid timely diagnosis, prevent progression and advance treatment discovery. This research leverages clinical neuropsychology, structural and functional neuroimaging and genomics. A primary aim is to understand the underlying mechanisms linking cardiovascular disease with increased dementia risk and develop interventions that slow the rate of cognitive decline.
Clinical Research, Population Neuroscience