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
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.
Cyrene Arputhasamy Research Associate
Cyrene is a research associate in the Andersen lab. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley, in May 2018, where she studied molecular and cellular biology with an emphasis in cell and developmental biology (medical biology and physiology). Her undergraduate work focused on understanding the molecular mechanisms of the persistent invasion and recurrence of mesenchymal glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). Cyrene joined the Andersen lab in June 2018 and is presently working to understand the age-related molecular mechanisms underlying neurodegenerative diseases.
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 SENS Intern
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 Larry L. Hillblom Postdoctoral Research 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.
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 PhD Candidate, Buck-USC Biology of Aging Program
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.
Renuka Sivapatham, PhD Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Renuka received her PhD in neurobiology from the University of Southern Denmark in summer 2018. Her PhD studies were focused on modeling Parkinson’s disease by using patient-specific and isogenic induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). She joined the Andersen and Lithgow labs in 2017. Her proficiency in developing methods for the therapeutic application of iPSCs in Parkinson’s disease have furthered her interest in pursuing translational research in neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease. In the Lithgow and Andersen labs, her focus is studying protein homeostasis during development of Alzheimer’s disease in the nematode C. elegans and rodent models.
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.
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.
- Woods G, Andersen J.K. (2018 Jul 11). Screening method for identifying toxicants capable of inducing astrocyte senescence. Toxicol Sci. DOI: 10.1093/toxsci/kfy181. [Epub ahead of print] PMID 30010981.
- Chinta, S. J., Woods, G., Demaria, M., Rane, A., Zou, Y., McQuade, A., Rajagopalan, S., Limbad, C., Madden, D. T., Campisi, J., Andersen, J. K. (2018 Jan 23). Cellular senescence is induced by the environmental neurotoxin paraquat and contributes to neuropathology linked to Parkinson’s disease. Cell Rep, 22(4), 930–940. DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2017.12.092. Epub 2018 Jan 28.
- Haller, S., Kapuria, S., Riley, R. R., O’Leary, M. N., Schreiber, K. H., Andersen, J. K., Melov, S., Que, J., Rando, T. A., Rock, J., Kennedy, B. K., Rodgers, J. T., Jasper, H. (2017 Dec 7). mTORC1 activation during repeated regeneration impairs somatic stem cell maintenance. Cell Stem Cell, 21(6), 806–818, e5. DOI: 10.1016/j.stem.2017.11.008.
- Borroni, E., Bohrmann, B., Grueninger, F., Prinssen, E., Nave, S., Loetscher, H., Chinta, S. J., Rajagopalan, S., Rane, A., Siddiqui, A., Ellenbroek, B., Messer, J., Pähler, A., Andersen, J. K., Wyler, R., Cesura, A. M. (2017 Sep). Sembragiline: A novel, selective monoamine oxidase type B inhibitor for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. J Pharmacol Exp Ther, 362(3), 413–423. DOI: 10.1124/jpet.117.241653. Epub 2017 Jun 22. PMID 28642233.
- Rajagopalan, S., Rane, A., Chinta, S. J., Andersen, J. K. (2016 Jan 27). Regulation of ATP13A2 via PHD2-HIF1α signaling is critical for cellular iron homeostasis: Implications for Parkinson’s disease. J Neurosci, 36(4), 1086–95. DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3117-15.2016. PMID: 26818499.
- Siddiqui, A., Bhaumik, D., Chinta, S. J., Rane, A., Rajagopalan, S., Lieu, C. A., Lithgow, G. J., Andersen, J. K. (2015 Sep 16). Mitochondrial quality control via the PGC1α-TFEB signaling pathway is compromised by Parkin Q311X mutation but independently restored by rapamycin. J Neurosci, 35(37), 12833–44. DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0109-15.2015.