Ambasudhan Lab

Principal Investigator: Rajesh Ambasudhan, PhD  

email: rajesh at scintillon dot org

Research Focus: Stem cells, cell reprogramming, neurodegenerative diseases, and drug discovery

We are focused on gaining deeper insights into the biology of neurodegenerative and neurodevelopmental diseases, and in translating such knowledge into developing effective therapies. Existing literature highlight the role of mitochondrial dysfunction, oxidative stress, metabolic changes and aberrant proteostasis in the pathology of these diseases. However, it is still unclear what trigger these events at the onset of disease, and how are they orchestrated to cause neuronal damage. Toward addressing these fundamental questions we have developed human stem cell based (hiN, hiPSC, and hiPSC-derived brain organoid) “disease in a dish models” and complement those studies with a wide variety of in vivo animal experiments. We take an interdisciplinary approach by integrating functional genomics, proteomics and metabolomics to garner insights using the above model systems and then translate such knowledge into developing drugs. Using these strategies we recently showed how environment (e.g. pesticide exposure) and genes conspire in orchestrating aberrant cellular events leading to the apoptotic cell death in patient hiPSC-derived A9 dopaminergic neurons, the major cell type affected in Parkinson’s disease (PD) (Cell, 2013), and discovered novel lead compounds for therapeutic development in PD by targeting such “events” in an high-throughput small molecule screening (HTS) effort. We are taking similar strategies in studying Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and neuronal damages observed in Mitochondrial Encephalopathy Lactic Acidosis and Stroke like episodes (MELAS) syndrome.

We are also actively involved in developing cell therapy for Parkinson’s disease and Stroke using our stem cell based platforms. We use optogenetics, in vivo imaging, behavioral read outs and histopathological assessments to evaluate/optimize our stem cell transplantation strategies in our animal models (Rats, Mice and African Green Monkeys). The NIH, CIRM and industrial partners on these projects support our efforts.

Selected Publications

  • Lin T, Ambasudhan R, Xu Y, Li W, Hilcove S, et al. (2009) A chemical platform for improved induction of human iPS cells. Nature Methods 6(11) 805-8. (Featured on the cover; Nature Method editorial; BBC; Yahoo)
  • Ambasudhan R, Talantova M, Coleman R, Xu Y, Zhu S et al. (2011) Direct reprogramming of human fibroblasts to functional neurons under defined conditions. Cell Stem Cell 9 (2); 1-6. (Faculty 1000; highlight Regen Med; Cell Stem Cell Editorial; Nature SciBx; Gen Engg News)
  • Ryan SD, Dolatabadi N, […], Jaenisch R*, Ambasudhan R*, Lipton SA*. (2013) Isogenic Human iPSC Parkinson's Model Shows Nitrosative Stress-Induced Dysfunction in MEF2-PGC1α Transcription. Cell Dec 5; 155(6): 1351-64 *corresponding authors (Highlight in Nature Genetics; Nature SciBx; Fox news)
  • Zhu S, Ambasudhan R, Sun W, Kim HJ, Talantova M, et al. (2014) Small molecules enable OCT4-mediated direct reprogramming into expandable human neural stem cells. Cell Research 24(1): 126-9
  • Ambasudhan R*, Dolatabadi N, Nutter A, Masliah E, McKercher S et al. (2014) Potential for cell therapy in Parkinson’s disease using genetically programmed human embryonic stem cell-derived neural progenitor cells. Journal of Comparative Neurology 522(12): 2845-56  (Stem cell special issue) *corresponding author
  • Akhtar MW, Blasco S, Dolatabadi N, Parker J, Chon K, et al. (2016) Elevated glucose and oligomeric β-amyloid disrupt synapses via a common pathway of aberrant protein S-nitrosylation. Nature Communication DOI: 10.1038/ncomms10242 (Highlight in Yahoo, Gen Engg News; Business wire)

A full list of our publication can be found at:

Latest News


Scintillon Institute, San Diego, California

Scintillon Institute Researchers Find Molecular Link Between Diabetes and Alzheimer’s Disease
San Diego 
January 8, 2016