Our lab’s main interest is how external factors (e.g., diet, exercise, and social cues) alter long-term functions of microglia and thus influence the susceptibility to neurological diseases. We combine novel mouse models, primary cell culture systems, and molecular techniques with state-of-the-art biotechnological tools at the ASRC’s core facilities and the expertise from the members of the ASRC’s Environmental Sciences, Neuroscience, Structural Biology, Nanoscience, and Photonics Initiatives to answer this question.

From external signals to cellular responses

Habits, experiences, and environmental exposures heavily influence the quality of cognitive aging and the risk of developing neurological diseases. We address what cellular responses these factors trigger in microglia, the brain’s primary immune cells. Microglia are heavily implicated in the etiology of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological diseases.

From cellular responses to cellular identity

Midlife events can steer aging towards pathological trajectories, implying that these events are stored as cellular memories. Combining novel mouse models and nanotechnology, we mimic or block cellular responses of microglia with a goal to elucidate how they interact with the epigenetic machinery and determine microglia identity and function.

From cellular identities to functional outcomes

Microglia can exist in diverse states during aging and neurological diseases that can have protective or harmful outcomes for the brain function. Our goal is to trace molecular pathways that link microglia cellular phenotypes to their impact on brain health, with a goal to reveal therapeutic targets in the treatment of neurological diseases.