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Disease Biology

C. elegans model of aggregation-prone SOD1 mutant protein. Green - SOD1-YFG fusion protein, 127x mutant; red - muscle actin. By Tali Gidalevitz

Our research aims to understand and treat a variety of human diseases. Our faculty use a range of model systems and experimental approaches to discover the underlying causes of human disease and devise new therapeutic strategies. Faculty work on neurodegenerative and protein aggregation diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS); developmental disorders such as Fragile X syndrome, autism, CHARGE syndrome and Pitt-Hopkins; multiple forms of cancer; spinal cord injury; and autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis. Biology faculty collaborate with clinical and basic scientists from the Drexel College of Medicine, which focuses on translational, bench-to-bedside research.

Faculty Conducting Research in Disease Biology

Contact Specialization
Michael Akins
Assistant Professor
PISB 319
Experience-dependent plasticity in the mammalian nervous system; post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression in neurons
Dr. John Bethea
Department Head, Professor
PISB 123.04
Felice Elefant , Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Co-Director of the Biology Graduate Program
PISB 317

Impairment of epigenetic gene control mechanisms in the brain involving histone acetylation causes significant cognitive deficits that are a debilitating hallmark of most neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease (AD).   My laboratory is focused on understanding the mechanisms that govern epigenetic regulation of higher order brain function.  Recently, we made the exciting discovery that epigenetic Tip60 histone acetylation (HAT) action is critical for cognitive processes and remarkably, plays a neuroprotective role under in vivo disease state neurodegenerative conditions.   We are currently exploring the mechanisms underlying neural Tip60 HAT function in neuroprotective epigenetic gene control and the beneficial impact that environmental enrichment conditions has on these processes.   Our studies should provide new understanding into epigenetic-based mechanisms underlying neurodegenerative disorders, and broad insights into HAT based drug design for early therapeutic intervention of cognitive deficits.

Denise Garcia
Assistant Professor
PISB 422
Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology
Tali Gidalevitz
Assistant Professor
PISB 418
Dr. Daniel Marenda
Associate Professor
PISB 421
Developmental neurobiology and behavior. Modeling Alzheimer’s disease, CHARGE syndrome, and Pitt-Hopkins in Drosophila
Dean Donna Murasko, PhD
Changes in immune response with increasing age, immune response to viruses, CD8 T cell response in virus infections
Nianli Sang, M.B., Ph.D.
Co-Director of the Cell Imaging Center; Associate Professor
PISB 417
Molecular, Cellular and Biochemical Bases of Major Human Diseases
Aleister Saunders, PhD
Senior Vice Provost for Research; Professor
104 Left Bank
Biochemistry, Genetics, Molecular/Cellular Biology
Elias Spiliotis, Ph.D.
Associate Professor; Co-Director of the Biology Graduate Program; Director of the Cell Imaging Center
PISB 423
Cell biology, cytoskeleton (microtubules, actin, septins), neuronal and epithelial morphogenesis, spatial regulation of intracellular transport, cell motility and cell division.