Celebrating Scintillon wins in early 2021
The Scintillon Institute is proud to announce the recent addition to its faculty, Dr. Albert Chen, a neurobiologist who specializes in examining the link between neural circuits and behavior in health and disease.
Albert Chen joins Scintillon Institute as an Associate Professor of Neuroscience after spending eight years at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. Research in his lab employs a multidisciplinary approach to define the molecular, anatomical, and functional distinctions of brain centers important for coordination and refinement of movement, motor learning, and complex motivated behaviors using genetic and viral circuit tracing, neural manipulations, deep brain imaging and quantitative behavioral approaches in mice.
The rising prevalence of obesity and eating disorders is a significant public health crisis, and dysfunctions of subcortical and hindbrain networks important for feeding behaviors and metabolism have been implicated. With a recently awarded R01 from the NIH, an exciting new project in the Chen lab aims to identify and characterize previously unknown components of the neural network that mediates food seeking and consumption, with a long-term goal of exploring the efficacy of drugs and brain stimulation as effective therapeutics for body weight control.Read more
Faculty and Staff
Rajesh Ambasudhan, PhD
Dr. Ambasudhan is a stem cell biologist working in the field of neurological diseases, including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Autism Spectrum Disorders and Stroke. His lab has established patient specific disease-in-a-dish models of these diseases using novel cell-reprogramming technologies, and has been using them a) to understand disease mechanisms, and b) for developing effective therapies.
Prior to joining Scintillon he was a neuroscience and stem cell research faculty at the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute. He received his post-doctoral training in stem cell biology and drug discovery at the Scripps Research Institute and training in functional genomics relating to neurodegenerative conditions from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
ROBERT BEARDALL, MDDr. Beardall has a broad medical and leadership background with over 26 years experience in clinical preventive medicine and population health improvement. He has an extensive background in personal health improvement programme design, implementation and delivery as well as ongoing management and improvement. Critical skills and experience in the bimolecular drivers of health and aging, epidemiology, health behaviour change, applied bioinformatics and biotechnology provide a unique, practical understanding of the biological determinants of healthspan, age related disease and wellbeing.
JOEL BUXBAUM, MD
Prior to joining Scintillon, Dr. Joel N. Buxbaum was Professor of Medicine at NYU School of Medicine and Professor of Molecular Medicine at The Scripps Research Institute where he was head of arthritis research and the W.M. Keck autoimmune disease center. In recognition of his research contributions he was elected to the American Society for Clinical Investigation and the Association of American Physicians and received the Dart Biotechnology Award from NYU Medical School in 2013. He has served on many study sections and review groups including the Advisory council of the National Genome Research Institute of the NIH and chaired the council on clinical and research investigations of the American Cancer Society. He is currently a member of the editorial boards of Amyloid and the FASEB journal and has served as a consultant to companies developing therapies for the systemic amyloidoses.
His major research interests focus on the genetics, pathogenesis and treatment of human protein misfolding diseases, many of which are age related, and include those that involve the central nervous system, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, and those with predominant systemic manifestations best exemplified by immunoglobulin L-chain and transthyretin amyloidosis, both of which affect the kidneys, heart and peripheral nervous systems. His most recent work has examined the structural and functional relationships among amyloidogenic proteins and their possible roles in normal physiology including effects on the formation of microbial biofilms which are responsible for the persistence of infection on the surfaces of implanted prosthetic devices.
Albert I. Chen, PhD
Research in the Chen Lab employs a multidisciplinary approach to pursue two major aims: 1) to define the molecular, anatomical, and functional distinctions of neuronal subpopulations in the nervous system that control specific behaviors; and 2) to identify and characterize genes that direct the assembly and maintenance of neural circuits. These general issues are examined through the analysis of local and long-range circuits in subcortical brain centers important for coordination and refinement of movement, motor learning, and cognitive behaviors using genetic and viral circuit tracing, neural manipulations, and behavioral approaches in mice.
Albert Chen is an Associate Professor at Scintillon Institute. Before joining Scintillon, he was an Assistant Professor at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. Albert received his undergraduate degree at the University of Illinois and Ph.D. from Columbia University where he examined the specification of neuronal subtype identity and axonal targeting in the spinal cord. As a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, San Francisco, he transitioned to studying supraspinal motor structures, exploring the mechanisms underlying the assembly and maintenance of neural circuits in the cerebellum, a brain region critical for sensorimotor integration and voluntary motor control.
Valentin Cracan, PhD
Dr. Cracan joined the Scintillon Institute faculty as an Assistant Professor in December 2018. The long-term goal of his lab is to apply quantitative metabolomics, structural enzymology and protein engineering methods to study cellular metabolism and bioenergetics in normal physiology and disease. Specifically, his research program seeks to illuminate how cellular metabolism is contributing to cancer and aging-associated neurodegenerative diseases.
Dr. Cracan received his undergraduate degree in Biology and Biochemistry from the Moldova State University in the Republic of Moldova in 2005 and his Ph.D. in Biological Chemistry from University of Michigan in 2012, where he studied the intracellular pathway for trafficking of cobalamin (vitamin B12) in the laboratory of Ruma Banerjee. In 2012, he joined the laboratory of Vamsi Mootha at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. There, he obtained extensive experience in mitochondrial biology by applying his experience in enzymology and biochemistry to find ways to alleviate consequences of lesions in the electron transport chain and developed tools to study redox metabolism. Dr. Cracan is a recipient of NIH Pathway to the Independence award from NIGMS.
Murat H. Digicaylioglu, MD PhD
Dr Digicaylioglu is a neurosurgeon and a neuroscientist. He was trained as a research fellow at Harvard University, Brigham and Women’s hospital by Dr. Stuart Lipton. His research focuses on neurodegenerative diseases, with a specific focus on ischemic stroke, traumatic brain injury and brain tumors. Furthermore, his work on the neuronal function of Erythropoietin encouraged many of his colleagues to work on this cytokine. In addition, supported by an NIH grant, he is currently evaluating the inductors of HIV associated dementia and the role of oxidative and nitrosative stress in this type of neurodegeneration. As an educator, Dr. Digicaylioglu successfully trained neurosurgery residents, graduate students, undergraduate students and senior high school student.
Prior to joining the Scintillon Institute, Dr. Digicaylioglu was an Associate Professor of Neurosurgery and Physiology, Research Director, Member of the Residency Education Group at the University of Texas, Health Science Center in San Antonio, Department of Neurosurgery and South Texas Research Facility. Dr. Digicaylioglu has also a co-appointment at The Scripps Research Institute. Furthermore, he is the founder of Peria Inc, a biotechnology company focused on developing novel diagnostic tools for point of care and over the counter.
Guido Gaietta, PhD
Dr. Gaietta is an accomplished molecular and cellular biologist with a long-standing experience in multi-scale high resolution correlated light and electron microscopy approaches (CLEM), molecular probes development and implementation. Shortly after finishing his PhD, Dr. Gaietta joined the teams lead by Roger Y. Tsien and Mark H. Ellisman at UCSD, where he worked on the refinement and application of new molecular tagging technologies, establishing himself as a creative and versatile scientist, active in technology development, collaborative effort management, training and dissemination.
In 2017, Dr. Gaietta joined the team lead by Dr. Hanein, and took the challenge to refine and implement existing CLEM approaches into the cryo-CLEM workflow developed in the Hanein lab. with emphasis on cellular cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET). Currently Dr. Gaietta supervises all cellular cryo-EM sample preparations, as well as light microscopy (LM) and cryo-EM screening of specimens slated for cryo-ET.
Fred H. Hochberg, MD
Dr. Fred H. Hochberg is a Neurologist and Neuro-Oncologist with a major focus on the translation of laboratory findings into therapies for patients with brain tumors. His research demonstrated that methotrexate therapy increased the survival of brain lymphoma patients from 11 months to four years. As a result, this treatment is now the gold standard upon which single or multi-drug therapies are based. In addition, the doctor serves on NCI and other national brain tumor committees and teaches nationally and internationally in his field. His current work involve the creation of “liquid biopsies” utilizing extracellular vesicles for minimally invasive diagnosis of neurologic disease.
Dorit Hanein, PhD
Hanein’s research is at the interfaces between structural biology, cell biology, systems biology, and engineering science. Hanein is leading efforts in combining light microscopy with cellular tomography to permit the placement of dynamics multimolecular protein complexes into their functional context in whole mammalian cells. Through these efforts, she made seminal contributions to our knowledge of the structure, assembly and regulation of actin cytoskeleton and its associated macromolecular assemblies, to the development of techniques and protocols for correlative light and in-situ cellular tomography of protein structures in intact hydrated mammalian cells at cryogenic temperatures, and to the evolution of quantitative cryogenic electron microscopy. This workflow is tied to high-resolution, live-cell fluorescence imaging that are used to pinpoint the location of single proteins. With the advent of the new generation of cryo-electron microscopy equipment, including direct detection technology, phase plate devices, and automation capabilities, these efforts place Dr. Hanein research at the forefront of exciting new developments at the interface between cryo-EM, cell biology, and systems biology. The resulting quantitative integration of scales between macroscopic cellular behavior and high-resolution structural changes carries high impact in both medicine and basic biological research.
Dr. Hanein was educated at the Weizmann Institute, Israel. Dr. Hanein completed training as a Fulbright postdoctoral fellow at Brandeis University with David DeRosier, the founding father of three-dimensional image reconstruction techniques via electron microscopy. Dr. Hanein holds a joint appointment with Institut Pasteur and the Scintillon Institute and is a PEW Innovation Fund Investigator.
Al Kellner, PhD
Dr. Kellner’s research is focused on the development of automated high-resolution imaging cytometers for high-throughput biomedical screening.
Prior to joining Scintillon he was a Senior Scientist at the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, an assistant researcher and lecturer in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of California San Diego, and a research engineer at the Westinghouse Electric Corporation Advanced Technology Laboratories.
Stuart Lipton, MD, PhD
Neurologist and neuroscientist Stuart Lipton, MD PhD, is a renowned expert in dementia, running a large basic-science laboratory, and an active clinical neurology practice at the University of California, San Diego. He is best known for discovering the mechanism of action and contributing to the clinical development of the latest FDA-approved treatment for Alzheimer’s disease (memantine/Namenda®, an uncompetitive antagonist at the NMDA receptor). Lipton and collaborator Jonathan Stamler discovered the chemical reaction termed S-nitrosylation as a ubiquitous redox-regulator of protein function and have recently combined memantine with S-nitrosylation technology to produce a new drug, NitroMemantine, that displays disease-modifying activity in animal models of Alzheimer’s disease. Lipton’s group also discovered the GluN3 family of modulatory NMDA receptor subunits, characterized the molecular pathways for protecting neurons with erythropoietin, and discovered the transcription factor MEF2C. Recently, his group showed MEF2C serves as a master switch for neurogenesis from human neural stem cells and is regulated by S-nitrosylation. They found that dysregulated MEF2C is involved in the pathogenesis of autism spectrum disorders, vascular dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. Lipton is a recipient of the Ernst Jung Prize in Medicine, is an elected a fellow of the AAAS Neuroscience section, and a recent awardee of the Alzheimer’s Disease Association.
Educated at three Ivy League universities (Cornell, University of Pennsylvania, Harvard), Dr. Lipton completed scientific training as a postdoctoral fellow with Torsten Wiesel when Wiesel won the Nobel Prize. Dr. Lipton then spent 25 years on the faculty at Harvard before moving to La Jolla 15 years ago as founding director of a new neuroscience center.
Tomohiro Nakamura, PhD
Dr. Nakamura’s research is focused on redox biology with specific expertise in the area of nitric oxide (NO) signaling in the nervous system. The group is extensively studying an NO-mediated posttranslational modification called S-nitrosylation and its pathophysiological roles under neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
He obtained his PhD from University of Tsukuba, Japan in the research field of oxidative stress. Prior to joining the Scintillon Institute, he was a research assistant professor at Sanford-Burnham-Prebys Medical Discovery Institute.
Nobuki Nakanishi, PhD
Dr. Nakanishi’s current research is focused on (1) the regulation of NMDA-type glutamate receptors and their roles in neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s Disease and stroke (2) the transcription factor MEF2 and its roles in autism spectrum disorders.
Prior to joining Scintillon, he was an Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School, and an Associate Professor at the Sanford-Burnham-Prebys Medical Discovery Institute.
John P. Nolan, PhD
The Nolan lab develops new tools for quantitative cell and molecular analysis and applying these to important biomedical problems. We apply these new tools to a range of biomedical problems, including analysis of host-pathogen interactions and the immune response, cancer susceptibility, diagnosis, and treatment, and thrombosis and hemostasis.
Prior to joining the Scintillon Institute, Dr. Nolan was a Professor at the La Jolla Bioengineering Institute and Director of the National Flow Cytometry Resource at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Irene Munk Pedersen, PhD
The research interest of the Pedersen laboratory is based on the recent discovery of microRNAs (miRs), which has revolutionized our understanding of gene control. miRs play key roles in controlling development, stem cell fates and differentiation, and mutations in human miR genes have been linked to human disease.
The main focus of the Pedersen laboratory is to investigate the role of specific miRs in normal cells and explore how to use RNA molecules (miRs and mRNAs) as tools to regulate/counteract potential dysregulation in neurological disorders and cancer. A second area of research interest of the lab is to evaluate miRs function as novel restriction factors of mobile elements and retrovirus (LINE-1, hERVs and HIV-1) in human cells.
Dr. Pedersen received her BS and MS in Molecular Biology from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark in 1999 and 2000, her Ph.D. in 2002 working in Dr. John C Reed’s lab, at the Burnham Institute in La Jolla on apoptosis resistance and her post-doctoral studies in Dr. Michael David’s lab at UCSD in La Jolla focused on cytokine regulated miRs. Dr. Pedersen started her own lab at UCI in Irvine in 2011 continuing her work on miRs roles in stem cell reprogramming, neurological disorders (stroke, Alzheimer’s disease) tumorigenesis and viral disease. Dr. Pedersen was the recipient of an NIH Pathway to the Independence award (K01) from NCI and currently holds an R01 from NINDS. Dr. Pedersen joined the Scintillon Institute faculty as a tenured Associate Professor in September 2019.
Jeffrey Price, MD, PhD
Dr. Price's research is focused on high performance image cytometry instrumentation and algorithms and its application to genomics; kinetics of fast cellular events; tracking of cell migration, development/ differentiation and cancer progression; ultra-rare circulating tumor cell biology; and histology of cancer biomarkers.
Prior to joining the Scintillon team, Dr. Price was an Associate Professor at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, where he was a member of the Signal Transduction and Stem Cells and Regeneration Research Programs. He also co-founded Vala Sciences Inc, which develops and markets software and kits for cell-image based assays.
Gabriele Sulli, PhD
Dr. Sulli is a cancer biologist with training in multiple fields spanning epigenetic, metabolism and circadian biology. He holds a Ph.D. in Molecular Oncology from the European School of Molecular Medicine. He completed postdoctoral fellowships at the IFOM and Salk Institute. He had the idea to exploit the power of the circadian clock in order to identify new anticancer strategies. With his work he revealed that circadian regulators control critical nodes for cancer survial.
In 2019, he joined the Scintillon Institute to start his independent research group. His lab combines molecular biology, biochemistry, pharmacology and behavioral science to investigate mechanisms that are driving cancer initiation, progression and therapeutic response. He is an innovative and passionate cancer biologist exploring unpaved avenues in cancer treatment and prevention.
Mark Swift, PhD
Dr. Swift received exceptional training and experience in room temperature sample preparation, data collection, and in training Core Facility users while a graduate Assistant at the SDSU Electron Microscope Facility ( Dr. Barlow, Associate Director).
Since joining Dr. Hanein, he specialized in cryo-EM screening and data acquisition including cellular cryo-tomography, cryo-CLEM, and high-resolution single particle projects. He also worked closely with collaborators to train and supervise them on high end scryo-TEMs’ screening microscopes, the Cryo-CLEM equipment, and the Vitrobot vitrification equipment. He also handles all aspects of Krios Titan, and other high-end cryo-TEMs operation and data acquisition to consistently deliver high-quality data. Throughout the years, he has gained extensive experience in the operation and maintenance of the equipment used in preparation of the cryo grids, high-end microscopes and their support systems.
Iustin V. Tabarean, PhD
Dr. Tabarean's research examines the cellular physiology, pharmacology, and neurocircuitry controlling sympathetic outflow to the tissues involved in energy homeostasis.
Prior to joining the Scintillon team, Dr. Tabarean was an Assistant Professor at The Scripps Research Institute in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience.
Niels Volkmann, PhD
Dr. Volkmann’s research focuses on the development and application of innovative new computational, artificial intelligence, and data science tools to bridge information between the atomic and cellular scales, covering more than six orders of magnitude from Ångstroms to tens of microns. Central to this effort is the analysis and interpretation of data from electron cryo-microscopy and cellular electron cryo-tomography. These two rapidly emerging methodologies offer the possibility of not only linking these scales through correlative studies with other techniques such as light microscopy and X-ray crystallography, but also to create three-dimensional mappings of entire cellular proteomes, including direct in-situ study of molecular interactions and structure at the near-atomic scale in cryogenically preserved, unstained and unprocessed cells and tissues.
Dr. Volkmann was educated at the University of Hamburg, Germany, and obtained his PhD at the Max Planck Institute in Hamburg with Ada Yonath, who won the Nobel Prize in 2009. Dr. Volkmann completed training as a postdoctoral fellow at Brandeis University with David DeRosier, one of the founding fathers of three-dimensional image reconstruction techniques. Dr. Volkmann holds a joint appointment with Institut Pasteur and the Scintillon Institute.
Jiwu Wang, PhD
Dr. Wang is the Scientific Director and founder of the Scintillon Institute. His research focuses on pre-mRNA splicing, one of the most important molecular biology mechanisms related to many diseases, including cancer.
Dr. Wang is an inventor of more than 10 patents in the fields of RNA interference, imaging, diagnostics, skin protection, and human stem cell production. He is also the founder of Allele Biotechnology & Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a research-based company specializing in the fields of RNAi, stem cells, viral expression, camelid antibodies, and fluorescent sensors.
Yun C. Yung, PhD
Yun C. Yung, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor at Scintillon Institute. He is also a member of the Scintillon Aging Research Center (SARC). The Yung Lab studies induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) biology and various blood-derived factors, such as bioactive lipids, in the context of disease etiology and treatments, including hydrocephalus, diabetes, spinal cord repair, and aging. The lab utilizes a multi-disciplinary approach, including single-nuclei/cell Seq methods, cell and tissue imaging, and in vivo rodent models and behavior.
Prior to joining Scintillon, Dr. Yung received undergraduate degrees in Molecular Cell Biology and Cognitive Sciences from the University of California, Berkeley. He worked for several years with Dr. Victor Tse on brain tumor angiogenesis and cancer stem cells at Stanford University. He then continued completed his doctorate in Biomedical Sciences from the University of California, San Diego studying bioactive lipid biology in brain development and hydrocephalus and transcriptomic and genomic variation in neurons. He continued as a post-doctoral fellow at Scripps Research and later as research assistant professor at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute with Dr. Jerold Chun. He is the recipient of several awards, including a graduate research fellowship from the National Science Foundation, a post-doctoral Hydrocephalus Association Mentored Young Investigator Award, and a Hydrocephalus Association Discovery Science Award. He was also a junior co-investigator on a grant studying a variant of Alzheimer’s Disease called posterior cortical atropy.
Promising young faculty joins Scintillon Institute
November 3, 2018
The Scintillon Institute is proud to announce the recent addition to its faculty a leading scientist Dr. Yun Yung, who is an expert on cortical brain development and related neurological disorders, including hydrocephalus.
Hydrocephalus, otherwise known as “water on the brain” is one of the most common neurological disorders in children with an incidence rate of 0.01%, similar to Down’s syndrome. In addition, adults and the elderly can also suffer from different variants of hydrocephalus, particularly in cases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.