Research Team Members
Sarah C. Hopp, Ph.D.Research focuses on microglia, the immune cells of the central nervous system, and how these cells are involved in Alzheimer’s disease and other age-associated neurodegenerative diseases. Microglia changes during aging, in Alzheimer’s disease and chronic neuroinflammation. A main research objective is to understand how these changes contribute to the initiation and progression of neurodegeneration and cognitive deficits. One line of research focuses on microglia interaction with tau pathology. Misfolded tau accumulates and spreads during Alzheimer’s disease and other tauopathies, and recent evidence from the laboratory suggests that microglia contribute to the spread of tau pathology via dysfunctional degradation of tau. A second line of research focuses on how microglia intracellular calcium dysregulation in the context of Alzheimer’s pathology alters normal microglia processes and contributes to their dysfunction in Alzheimer’s disease. A particular interest is differentiating cell autonomous and non-cell autonomous effects of manipulating microglia in vivo. A variety of methods are utilized to address these research goals including transgenic animal models, behavior analyses, cell culture, imaging, protein biochemistry, flow cytometry, immunohistochemistry and pharmacological and genetic manipulation of microglia-specific pathways.
Biological & Innovative Research
Mini E. Jacob, M.D., Ph.D.Research focuses on the process of disablement among older adults, particularly on the intertwining pathways to mobility disability and dementia. Previous studies evaluated whether behavioral factors like diet and physical activity in early old age can continue to influence health and affect the length of terminal morbidity and disability. Ongoing projects examine patterns and burden of multi-morbidity as a risk factor for disablement, the role of cognitive impairment in the pathway to disability and how a combination of physical and cognitive impairment can influence disablement. Current objectives also include evaluating how physical function measures correlate with markers of Alzheimer’s disease in asymptomatic individuals and identifying mobility measures that reflect brain vascular pathology.
Clinical Research, Population Neuroscience
Xueqiu Jian, Ph.D.Research interests include the genetic epidemiology of human complex traits related to brain aging, with an emphasis on the discovery of novel genes influencing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and related endophenotypes such as brain imaging markers and measures of neurocognitive function, using integrated multi-omics approaches in large-scale population-based cohort studies. Ongoing work is focused on detecting and characterizing rare copy number variation for Alzheimer’s disease by leveraging the next-generation sequencing technologies. Other interests include functional prediction and annotation of genetic variants using bioinformatics tools. Some international collaborative efforts include the Cohorts for Heart and Aging Research in Genomic Epidemiology (CHARGE) consortium, the Alzheimer’s Disease Sequencing Project (ADSP), the Trans-Omics for Precision Medicine (TOPMed) program and the International Genomics of Alzheimer’s Project (IGAP).
Tiffany F. Kautz, Ph.D.Research focuses upon identifying biomarkers for earlier identification of Alzheimer’s disease and related neurodegenerative diseases. Actively involved in coordinating research collaborations to further these research interests, including the Markers for Vascular Contributions to Cognitive Impairment and Dementia (MarkVCID) and Cognitively Healthy Nonagenarians in the Cross Cohort Collaboration (CCC). Also serves as the creator and coordinator of the Biggs Biobank, a comprehensive repository of biofluids and tissues from a variety of neurodegenerative disorders as well as cognitively healthy controls.