Longo Lab Members

Frank M. Longo, MD, PhD
George E. and Lucy Becker Professor in Medicine
Professor of Neurology & Neurological Sciences

Dr. Longo is chair of the Department of Neurology and Neurological Sciences, the George E. and Lucy Becker Professor of Medicine, and director of the Stanford Alzheimer’s Translational Research Center. His clinical interest include Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.  His research team is developing new drugs that are focused on the modulation of fundamental cell signaling pathways that are involved in neurodegeneration. These pathways can be regulated by known protein growth factors but such proteins cannot be used as drugs. Dr. Longo’s team has pioneered the development of the first small molecule, drug-type compounds that can mimic key parts of growth factor proteins and achieve their potent effects on preventing or reversing degeneration. Work in Alzheimer’s mice has been extremely promising and efforts are now underway to bring the first of these compounds to human trials.


Kevin Tran, BS
Life Science Research Assistant/Lab Manager

Kevin received his BS in Biotechnology with an emphasis in microbiology from the University of California, Davis. He began his career in a start-up medical device company that specialized in cancer treatment before joining the Longo Lab. Currently, he is the lab manager and focuses his research on Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease. He is working towards his clinical laboratory science (CLS) license with the goal of combining his years in both industry and academia in order to provide quality patient care. His hobbies include running, hiking, travel, and film making.

For Longo Lab inquiries, please email: kctran@stanford.edu

Tao Yang, PhD
Senior Research Scientist

Tao Yang received her PhD from Beijing Medical University, now Peking University Health Science Center. For a considerable portion of her career, she has been working in the lab, and contributing to important research to find cures for neurological diseases. She screened and characterized small molecule ligands for neurotrophin receptors, discovered small molecules that promoted neuronal survival, neurite outgrowth, and differentiation of human stem cells into neurons in vitro. She further discovered significant therapeutic properties of those small molecules that prevented neuronal degeneration, dendrites dystrophy and spine loss in both diseases of in vitro cell models and in vivo animal models. The overall theme of her current research concentrates on studying the roles and mechanisms of small molecules in neuronal networks, synaptic functions, neural stem cells and neurodegenerative diseases which include Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Parkinson’s disease (PD) and Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease. Her ultimate goal is to develop better small molecules to treat or prevent these diseases.

 

Danielle Simmons, PhD
Senior Research Scientist

Danielle Simmons received her PhD in Neuroscience at the University of California, Irvine, where she also conducted her post-doctoral studies on the role of neurotrophin receptor signaling and neuroinflammation in Huntington’s Disease (HD). She joined Dr. Frank Longo’s laboratory in 2008, where her research has focused on identifying mechanisms underlying HD and Alzheimer’s disease and developing small molecule therapeutic strategies to target these mechanisms. Dr. Simmons has been assessing the therapeutic effects of small molecule neurotrophin receptor ligands that were developed in the Longo laboratory against neurodegeneration in multiple mouse models of HD.  Through this work she has identified HD-related deficits in signaling via the neurotrophin receptors, p75, TrkB and TrkC and that found that normalizing this signaling ameliorates HD phenotypes. Currently, she is investigating the role of the p75 neurotrophin receptor in HD and neuroinflammation. Her ultimate goal is to develop effective strategies for treating and/or preventing HD and AD-associated neurodegeneration and monitoring the efficacy of potential therapeutics for these diseases by identifying mouse-to-human translatable biomarkers.

Amira Latif-Hernandez, PhD
Post Doctoral Researcher

Amira has obtained her PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Leuven, Belgium, in summer 2017. During her doctoral studies, she used innovative and clinically valid tests of murine cognition, neuronal plasticity measures in hippocampal and cortical slices, brain lesion methods, pharmacological applications in vitro and in vivo, resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging and biochemical analyses to characterize novel mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease and frontotemporal dementia. In autumn 2017, she moved to Dr. Longo’s lab at Stanford School of Medicine, where she investigates the signaling pathways that are involved in the pathophysiology of neurodegenerative disorders. She established and currently runs a multi-electrode array system with eight independent recording chambers which allow high-throughput analyses of multiple long-lasting forms of synaptic plasticity. Her main project focuses on the therapeutic effects of small molecule neurotrophin receptor ligands on synapse pathology in amyloid and tau mouse models. Her utmost goal is identifying the molecular and cellular basis that governs synapse degeneration during Alzheimer's disease and related dementias, and developing novel therapeutic strategies to target the synaptic machinery of vulnerable neurons.

Benoit Lehallier, PhD
Bioinformatics Research Professional

Benoit has obtained his master in biostatistics from Paul Sabatier University (Toulouse, France) and his Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Blaise Pascal University (Clermont Ferrand, France). His main interest lies in the development of new biostatistical approaches to better understand complex biological processes.

During his doctoral studies, he used BOLD fMRI and MEMRI to understand deep brain processing of complex stimulus. After completing his doctoral degree, Benoit started his postdoc at Roche Ltd (Basel Switzerland) in collaboration with the Wyss-Coray lab at Stanford University. He studied normal and abnormal aging to identify biomarkers that could be used for the early detection of diseases and/or targeted to develop new treatments. Benoit recently joined the Longo Lab to mine omics datasets related to the p75 NTR receptor-mediated signaling pathway.

Xiaohua Zhang, MS
Life Science Research Professional

Xiaohua received her M.S. in Bioinformatics from Eastern Michigan University and joined the Longo laboratory in 2017. Currently, she is helping assess the therapeutic effects of small molecule neurotrophin receptor ligands against neurodegeneration in mouse models of Huntington’s disease (HD) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD). This work also involves examining the effects of neurotrophin receptor ligands on the survival and structural integrity of HD patient derived induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC). Finally, Xiaohua is also working on a project aimed at establishing translatable biomarkers that can detect treatment response of the small molecule neurotrophin receptor ligands in HD and AD mouse models. Having such biomarkers will greatly benefit potential clinical trials with these compounds.

Selena Gonzalez, BS
Life Science Research Professional

Selena received her Neuroscience Bachelor of Science degree in 2017 from University of California, Los Angeles, where she examined the role of social context in modulating mate-seeking behavior throughout the estrous cycle. She has also characterized phenotypes of Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease mouse models using neurophysiological and radiotelemetry techniques during her internship at National Institute of Health Summer Program and CARE Fellows Program. Since joining the Longo Lab in August 2017, Selena has focused her work on examining Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s disease progression and modulation with small molecule pharmaceutical ligands for neurotrophin receptors. Her daily activities include mouse colony maintenance, drug administration, immunostaining and analysis of histological data. One of the projects Selena is passionate about is examining and quantifying cognitive deficits in HD & AD rodent models. Her future plans include pursuing a PhD in Neuroscience & applying her neuropathology research background to improving pharmaceutical applications in HD & AD.

Harry Liu, MS
Life Science Research Professional

Harry received his M.S. and B.S. degrees in Biology from UC San Diego, where he studied the molecular mechanisms of Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease in mouse models. Since joining the lab in 2018, he has focused his research on signaling pathways leading to tau pathology in Alzheimer’s disease and the therapeutic effects of artificial neurotrophin receptor ligands that may rescue or protect hippocampal neurons against tauopathy. He is currently working towards becoming a doctor and medical scientist and aims to contribute to public health through translational research in neurology. Outside of the lab, Harry volunteers with the Asian Liver Center at Stanford and is committed to raising awareness of Hepatitis B as the leading cause of liver cancer among Asian Americans. In his spare time, he enjoys reading philosophy (Nietzsche is his favorite), learning new languages, playing piano, tennis and swimming.

Tyne McHugh, BA
Life Science Research Professional

Tyne McHugh received her BA in Molecular and Cell Biology: Neurobiology with a minor in Public Health from UC Berkeley in 2018. While at Berkeley, she studied the evolution of Myxococcus xanthus in the presence of prey, and applied confocal and stereoscope microscopy to understand predator-prey interactions and cell to cell signaling. Since joining the Longo lab in August 2018, Tyne’s research focus has been on the therapeutic effects of small molecule neurotrophin receptor ligands in Alzheimer and Huntington’s disease mouse models. Her future plans include pursuing a medical degree with an emphasis on neurology research. Tyne was on the triathlon team at Berkeley and still enjoys cycling and running.

James Zhou, MS
Life Science Research Professional

James has received his M.S. in Physiology from Georgetown University after completing his undergraduate education at UC Berkeley. Since joining the lab in 2018, he has been involved with the study of Alzheimer's disease and Huntington's disease through experiments and other laboratory techniques. Outside of the lab, he is focused on pursuing better health and health equality for Asian Americans, particularly with the Asian Liver Center at Stanford University. He is also a part-time medical scribe who plans on combining both laboratory work with clinical practice in the future. In his spare time, he enjoys football, lifting weights and running.