Andersen Lab

Julie Andersen, PhD


On the road to new therapeutics for neurodegeneration, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Lab focus

The Andersen lab concentrates on understanding the underlying age-related processes driving neurodegenerative diseases in order to identify novel therapeutics that slow or prevent them from occurring. These include small molecules that boost the cell’s own ability to remove damaged proteins and other cellular components through a process called autophagy or those capable of removing cells which can inflict damage on healthy neighbors via a process called cellular senescence. We collaborate with other Buck researchers in order to understand the mechanisms involved and to screen and test novel compounds in various preclinical models of disease, including human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), C. elegans, and mice.

Why it matters

The most predominant neurodegenerative disorders currently afflicting the world population are Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Most studies to date have concentrated on how these diseases differ. This “isolationist” approach has yielded few, if any, effective treatments for either disease. Aging is the major risk factor for both. The aging process itself is associated with cellular changes in the brain that likely drive functional deficits in cognition and motor movement. We believe that focusing on what these disorders have in common — the aging brain — will open up novel avenues for disease prevention, amelioration, and cures.

The Buck’s focus on aging as the common risk factor for chronic disease – including neurodegenerative diseases – takes research out of ‘silos’ and increases the odds of developing new therapeutics for these devastating conditions.

Julie Andersen, PhD

The Andersen lab is pleased to acknowledge the generous support of the following major funders:

Dr. Andersen received her PhD from the Department of Biological Chemistry in the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. She received additional research training in the Department of Neurogenetics at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Prior to arriving at the Buck Institute, Dr. Andersen held a faculty position in the School of Gerontology at the University of Southern California.

Dr. Andersen has published more than 170 scientific papers and holds three current patents. She has been recognized for her research with a Parkinson’s Pioneer Award from the National Parkinson’s Foundation, a Glenn Award for Research in Biological Mechanisms of Aging, and a senior scholarship from the Ellison Medical Foundation. She was elected a fellow of the Society for Free Radicals in Biology and Medicine in 2013. She currently serves on the scientific advisory board for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Biology of Aging Program, on the editorial board of e-Neuro (Journal of Neuroscience’s e-journal), as a member of the Brookdale Institute on Aging, and as a council member for the Society of Neurotoxicity. Dr. Andersen has extensive experience working with both biotech companies and medical foundations, including Roche, the Michael J. Fox Foundation, the National Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, and the American Parkinson’s Disease Foundation.

  • Suzanne Angeli, PhD  Research Scientist

    Dr. Angeli received her bachelor’s degree in cell and molecular biology from Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 2003. She went on to study protein misfolding in Huntington’s disease in the laboratory of Dr. Marc Diamond at University of California, San Francisco, and completed her PhD in 2010. For her postdoctoral work, Dr. Angeli joined the Andersen lab to study models of Parkinson’s disease and manganese toxicity in C. elegans. She continued her postdoctoral studies in the Lithgow lab, conducting drug screens on mitochondrial toxicity and studying the mitochondrial unfolded protein response (UPR) in C. elegans. She is currently a research scientist in the Lithgow and Andersen labs.

  • Josue Ballesteros, PhD  Postdoctoral Research Fellow

    Josue received his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from the University of Salamanca, Spain, in 2012. He then worked as a research intern at the Department of Experimental Pathology at the University of Bologna, Italy, where he studied mitochondrial DNA rearrangements during aging. He continued his education at the University of Iceland where he completed his PhD in 2019, investigating the interplay between the MiT-TFE transcription factors in melanoma and their role in autophagy modulation.

  • David Begelman  Laboratory Technician

    David is a post baccalaureate research scholar who joined the Andersen Lab in September, 2018. He attended the University of Minnesota Twin Cities where he received his bachelor's degree in neuroscience. His undergraduate work focused on characterizing Alzheimer's Disease mouse models as well as understanding the cellular mechanisms of soluble forms of aggregation prone proteins. He is a part of the SENS Research Foundation Program and his research is concentrated on investigating the molecular mechanisms underlying Parkinson's Disease.

  • Manish Chamoli, PhD  Research Scientist, Larry L. Hillblom Fellow

    Manish obtained his five-year integrated master’s degree in biotechnology in 2009 and then joined the PhD program in aging biology at the National Institute of Immunology in India. His PhD work was focused on understanding molecular pathways mediating dietary restriction–induced longevity using the C. elegans model. His research was supported by a fellowship from the government of India’s Department of Biotechnology. After completing his PhD in 2015, Manish joined the Lithgow lab as a postdoctoral fellow. Currently he is working in collaboration with the Andersen lab to understand the role of autophagy in aging and age-related neurodegeneration, utilizing novel pharmacological agents. He is supported by a three-year postdoctoral fellowship from the Larry L. Hillblom Foundation.

  • Shankar Chinta, PhD  Adjunct Faculty, Assistant Professor

    Shankar Chinta received his Ph.D. in Neurochemistry from NIMHANS, India. During his tenure as a postdoctoral fellow, his research focus was on understanding the role of various molecular mechanisms involved in cell death associated with Parkinson’s disease using novel transgenic mouse models developed in Dr. Andersen laboratory. Recently, Shankar Joined as a faculty at Touro University California and an adjunct faculty at Buck Institute. His current project projects include determining the role of Cellular Senescence in brain aging and neurodegeneration.

  • Rohini Emani, PhD  Postdoctoral Research Fellow

    Rohini received her PhD in mucosal Immunology from University of Turku, Finland. Research focus on role of dietary fibers in modulating microbial and immune changes in cause of T1D in NOD mice. After her PhD she joined as a postdoc at Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School in 2017 her research focus on developing various humanized mice models for translational biology and study human immune modulations of IBD in humanized mice models upon treatment with novel therapeutics. Rohini expertise in mucosal immunology and T cell biology. Further Rohini will be focusing on understanding the role of immune cells in Blood Brain Barrier access in AD and Obesity research in aging.

  • Suckwon Lee  Research Associate

    Suckwon Lee was born and raised in Seoul, Korea. Suckwon attended University of California, Davis where he got his degree of bachelor of science in biochemistry & molecular biology and departmental citation. After graduating from Davis, he wanted to broaden his skill set. His graduation from Cornell University in Masters of chemistry & chemical biology has made him equip chemical techniques more deeply than before. Following his all studies, he plans to use all the techniques and knowledge for his own unique research, related to aging.

  • Jenny Hong Yu Ng  SENS Post-Baccalaureate

    Jenny is a research scholar who joined the Andersen Lab in September, 2021 as part of the SENS Research Foundation post-baccalaureate program. She attended Cornell University where she received her bachelor's degree in biologicalsSciences. Her undergraduate thesis investigated the inflammatory and recovery profile in Acomys cahirinus (spiny mouse), a novel model known to be capable of epimorphic regeneration, upon sciatic nerve injury. Currently she focuses on the gut-brain axis and its immunological implications in Alzheimer’s.

  • Anand Rane  Lab Manager & Research Associate II

    Anand is from Mumbai, India, and received a master’s degree in biomedical sciences from Louisiana Tech University. He has been involved in basic scientific research in the Andersen lab over the past 12 years and has been working to understand the neuropathology underlying Parkinson’s disease to uncover both novel treatments and cures for the disorder. He is the co-author of 22 publications. Anand’s most recent independent research project involved identifying inhibition of the heat shock protein co-chaperone p23 as a novel therapeutic target for Parkinson’s disease.

  • Minna Schmidt  Postdoctoral Research Fellow

    Minna graduated from Lowell High School in San Francisco as an AP honors student in chemistry and physics. After completing a year at City College of San Francisco, she attended Brandeis University, where she received a bachelor’s degree with honors in chemical biology in 2013. She subsequently completed her master’s degree in chemistry at the University of California, Santa Cruz, in 2015. She is currently a PhD candidate in the joint Buck-USC PhD program, where she is pursuing characterization of novel small chemical compounds that act to prevent neuronal cell loss associated with Parkinson’s disease. She has a particular emphasis on inducers of hypoxia inducible factor 1 alpha (HIF1alpha), which previous publications from the Andersen lab have suggested serve a neuroprotective role in the disease.

  • Chaska Walton, PhD  Postdoctoral Research Scholar

    Chaska received his bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Barcelona, Spain, in 2013. He then did a Master in Neuroscience while working as a research intern at the department of Psychobiology at the University of Barcelona, where he studied cognitive enhancement by glutamatergic receptor modulator compounds in rat models of aging. He continued his education at the CSIC/Autonomous University of Madrid, Spain, where he completed his PhD in molecular bioscience in 2018, investigating neuronal cell division in mouse long-term primary neurons.

  • Ellen Wang  Research Associate

    Ellen was raised in Southern California and graduated from Pomona College in Spring 2020, with a Bachelor's degree in Molecular Biology. She completed a senior thesis project on the effect of N-terminal acetylation on GDP Dissociation Inhibitor (GDI), a key player in intracellular vesicle trafficking. Motivated by her personal experiences with Alzheimer's Disease, she is excited to contribute to groundbreaking neurodegenerative disease and senescence research in the Andersen lab, as a member of the 2020 SENS Research Foundation Post-Bac program.

  • Georgia Woods, PhD  Postdoctoral Research Fellow

    Dr. Woods received her PhD in neuroscience from University of California, Davis, where she used advanced microscopic techniques to study synaptic pruning in the developing rodent brain. She joined the Buck Institute in 2013. Georgia’s expertise in neurodevelopment and microscopy have laid the foundation for conducting translational research in the Andersen lab, illuminating cellular pathology in neurodegenerative diseases. In particular, her interests lie in elucidating how glial cell dysfunction in the aging brain contributes to all-too-common neurodegenerative diseases in aging populations, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.

Mary Redwine
Administrative Lab Coordinator
Phone: 415-209-2237

One of the interests of the lab lays in studying how different Aβ aggregates can induce cellular senescence in brain cells. In the video, a 3D reconstruction of immunocytochemistry for neuron marker (MAP2, violet), astrocyte marker (GFAP, green), and amyloid beta markers for oligomers A11 (turquoise) as well as monomers, oligomers, protofibrils, and mature fibrils MOAB2 (red).

Amyloid beta (Aβ) is a fragment of the amyloid precursor protein (APP) and is the major constituent of senile plaques, one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), as well as other toxic aggregates such as oligomers and protofibrils. Aβ aggregates are thought to trigger a cascade of events that lead to clinical AD years to decades after they first appear. How this cascade works is still a mystery to science and understanding it may hold the key to stopping AD. At the Andersen lab we think Aβ aggregates trigger a process called cellular senescence. Cellular senescence is routinely studied outside the brain as an oncosuppressive mechanism. When unchecked, cellular senescence is thought to be a driver of aging and age-related disease. Unlike the vast majority of organs, the brain is not equipped to resolve cellular senescence, making it susceptible to the accumulation of senescent cells for years. At the Andersen lab we are researching a cellular senescence as a normal physiological process taking place in the wrong place: a “a failure in the design” that may ultimately result in AD.

Selected Publications
  • Chinta SJ, Woods G, Demaria M, Rane A, Zou Y, McQuade A, Rajagopalan S, Limbad C, Madden DT, Campisi J, Andersen JK (2018). Cellular senescence is induced by the environmental neurotoxin paraquat and contributes to neuropathology linked to Parkinson’s disease. Cell Rep. 22: 930-940.
  • Woods G, Andersen JK (2018). Screening method for identifying toxicants capable of inducing astrocyte senescence. Toxicol Sci. doi: 10.1093/toxsci/kfy181. PMCID:  PMC6204767.
  • Andersen JK (2018). Neurodegeneration. Innovation in Aging. 2018 Nov; 2 (Suppl 1): 745.   
  • Rane A, Rajagopalan S, Ahuja M, Thomas B, Chinta SJ, Andersen JK (2019). Hsp90 Co-chaperone p23 contributes to dopaminergic mitochondrial stress via stabilization of PHD2: Implications for Parkinson’s disease. Neurotoxicology 65: 166-173.
  • Tom S, Rane A, Katewa AS, Chamoli M, Matsumoto RR, Andersen JK, Chinta SJ. (2019).   Gedunin Inhibits Oligomeric Aβ1-42-Induced Microglia Activation Via Modulation of Nrf2-NF-κB Signaling. Mol Neurobiol. 56: 7851-7862.
  • Walton CC, Begelman D, Nguyen W, Andersen JK (2020) Senescence as an Amyloid  Cascade: The Amyloid Senescence Hypothesis. Front Cell Neurosci. 2020 May 19;14:129.
  • Chamoli M, Chinta SJ, Andersen JK, Lithgow GJ. (2020) Kavain suppresses Human Aβ-induced Paralysis in C. elegans. MicroPubl Biol.
  • Anand N, Holcom A, Broussalian M, Schmidt M, Chinta SJ, Lithgow GJ, Andersen JK*, Chamoli M*. (2020). Dysregulated iron metabolism in C. elegans catp-6/ATP13A2 mutant impairs mitochondrial function. *co-senior authors. Neurobiol. Dis.  
  • Viel T, Chinta S, Rane A, Chamoli M, Buck H, Andersen JK (2020) Microdose lithium reduces cellular senescence in human astrocytes – a potential pharmacotherapy for COVID-19? Aging. 103449. Volume 12, Issue 11, pp10035-10040.
  • Evans DS, O’Leary M, Andersen JK, et al (2021) Longitudinal Functional Study of Murine Aging: A Resource for Future Study Designs. JBMR Plus. Doi: 10.1002/jbm4.10466.

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