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.

Instructors

Amira Latif-Hernandez, PhD
Instructor, Neurology and Neurological Sciences

Amira obtained her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the KU Leuven, Belgium, in the summer of 2017. One of the most gratifying contributions of her doctoral studies was the development of a new electrophysiology tool to assess synaptopathies and the establishment of long-term synaptic plasticity from prefrontal cortex slices to characterize the pathophysiology of novel mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease. In Autumn of 2017, she moved to the Longo laboratory at the Stanford School of Medicine. During 3 years of post-doctoral work, she independently established a multi-electrode array system that allows high-throughput analyses of multiple long-lasting forms of synaptic plasticity. Her projects involve neuronal plasticity, RNA-sequencing, molecular biochemistry, signaling mechanisms, target validation and drug development strategies for Alzheimer’s disease with the objective of investigating neurotrophin receptor signaling pathways that contribute to synaptic degeneration and preservation. In October 2020, Amira was appointed Instructor of Neurodegenerative Disease Research at Stanford Neurology, to help develop improved and more powerful approaches that will better reveal key synaptic mechanisms and candidate modules associated with neuroplasticity and affected in AD mouse models, by identifying activity-dependent gene expression signatures that will ultimately serve as a platform for potential therapeutics and animal to human translation. When Amira is not dedicated to science, she truly enjoys running, hiking, dancing, cycling, boxing, cooking, reading books, writing journals, and, when possible, camping, surfing and climbing.

Research Scientists

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 Bachelor’s degrees in Biological Sciences and Psychology from Rutger’s University in New Brunswick, New Jersey and her PhD in Neuroscience at the University of California, Irvine, where she also conducted her post-doctoral studies. Her post-graduate work focused on the role of neurotrophin receptor signaling and neuroinflammation in Huntington’s Disease (HD). She joined Dr. Frank Longo’s laboratory as a Senior Scientist in the Stanford School of Medicine in 2008, where her research has focused on identifying mechanisms underlying HD and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and developing small molecule therapeutic strategies to target these mechanisms. Danielle has been assessing the therapeutic effects of small molecule neurotrophin receptor ligands, including LM11A-31, LM22A-4, and LM22B-10, 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 found that normalizing this signaling with LM11A-31, LM22A-4, or LM22B-10 ameliorates HD phenotypes. Regarding AD, Danielle is investigating the therapeutic effects of small molecule modulation of signaling via p75NTR or simultaneous modulation of TrkB and TrkC on vulnerable cell populations, including basal forebrain cholinergic neurons and parvalbuminergic interneurons, in an amyloid mouse model of AD. Her current projects also involve identifying neuroimaging, urinary, and blood biomarkers to assess the treatment response of the lab’s neurotrophin receptor ligands and other putative therapeutics for HD and AD. Danielle’s ultimate goal is to develop effective strategies for preventing HD and AD-associated neurodegeneration and monitoring the efficacy of potential therapeutics for these diseases by identifying mouse-to-human translatable biomarkers.

Robert Butler III, PhD
Senior Research Scientist

Robert Butler received his Bachelor’s Degree from Occidental College and his Master’s and PhD degrees from Illinois Institute of Technology, specializing in comparative genomics and bioinformatics. His pre-doctoral and doctoral work examined developmental genetics and evolutionary adaptation of microorganisms in a range of pathogenic and commensal roles, exploring horizontal and vertical inheritance of novel traits. His postgraduate research in psychiatric genomics integrated large-scale patient cohorts, animal models, and iPSC in vitro analysis to understand heritability in multiple psychiatric phenotypes including smoking behaviors, Alzheimer’s and neuropsychiatric disorders. Since joining the Longo Lab in 2020, Robert has compared mouse and human multi-omic datasets to better define their shared heritability in neurodegenerative disorders and identify early biomarkers of disease progression. Focusing on neurotrophin-associated signaling, he is examining altered pathways and cell types that are modified in models of tau and amyloid pathology to inform new gene targets and novel drug compounds with increased likelihood of translation to human therapies.

Lab Manager

Tálita Souto Camelo, BS
Life Science Research Professional - Lab Manager

Tálita graduated from the Bachelor program in Pharmacy at the Federal University of Belo Horizonte (UFMG), Brazil, in 2020. While at UFMG, Tálita conducted research in parasitic infection of the enteric nervous system during Chagas disease. In her thesis project, she synthesized and studied new imidazole-derived antifungal drug candidates. Tálita also spent three months abroad at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, where she evaluated a new in silico Ames test assay based on computational chemistry methods for accelerated mutagenicity screening of chemical compounds. Since joining the Longo Lab in August 2021, Tálita has taken on the role of lab manager. In addition to these managerial tasks, she has been working on projects aimed at understanding the role of disrupted neurotrophin signaling in pathology-related to Huntington’s disease (HD). This work involves testing the neurotrophin receptor ligands developed by the lab in multiple HD mouse models for their effects on motor and cognitive behavior as well as brain morphology. Her future plans include pursuing a PhD in Neuropharmacology. In her free time, Tálita enjoys hiking, camping, practicing yoga, and spending time with friends and family.

Life Science Research Professionals

Albert Ay, BS
Life Science Research Professional

Albert graduated from Michigan State University in May 2021 with major in human biology. During his undergraduate studies, his work focused on modifying the construct for the production of phosphorylated tau (p-tau) to use in cellular models of Alzheimer’s disease to facilitate drug discovery. He was also involved in a project examining C-terminal tagging of the tau sequence and found that several epitope tags such as HA tag and c-myc tag might change the biochemical structure of p-tau and could potentially effect p-tau aggregation. Albert ‘s current research focus is on the therapeutic effects of small molecule ligands for neurotrophic receptors in mouse models Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. His future goal is to keep working on disease treatments and improve medical technology. Besides scientific research, he likes to play and watch basketball.

Gloria Yueci Cao, BS

Gloria received a Bachelor of Science degree in neuroscience from the University of California (UC), Santa Cruz in December 2021. At UC Santa Cruz, she conducted research on the role of teneurin proteins in forming cortico-cortical connections from the primary visual cortex to higher-order areas in mice. Gloria joined the Longo lab in February of 2022 where she is investigating the efficacy of intra-cranial transplantation of neurotrophin-producing stem cells against Huntington’s disease progression. She is also examining whether small molecule neurotrophin receptor ligands can provide neuroprotection in mouse models of Huntington's and Alzheimer’s disease. She aspires to complete a medical degree to become a neurologist with a focus on developmental disorders in children. Gloria hopes her interest in both research and medicine can advance the understanding and subsequent treatment of neurodevelopmental disorders in youth. Outside of research, she enjoys relaxing activities like eating with good company, spending time at the beach, and tailoring clothing.

Tingshuo Chen, BA
Life Science Research Professional

Ting received his B.A. in Neuroscience with a minor in bioinformatics from UC Santa Cruz in 2020. While at UC Santa Cruz, he studied unpredictable stress and its effects on cortical neural circuitry utilizing in vivo 2 photon microscopy and behavioral analysis. Since joining the Longo laboratory in April 2021, Ting’s research focus has been on examining the therapeutic effects of small molecule neurotrophin receptor ligands against pathology in Huntington’s disease mouse models. Particularly, he is investigating the effects of modulating p75NTR with LM11A-31 on the morphology of different neuronal subtypes in the Q175 mouse model of Huntington’s disease. He is also studying the effects of LM11A-31 on neural activity and motor and cognitive behavior using calcium imaging in freely moving Huntington’s disease mice. In the future, he plans to attend graduate school and obtain a PhD in Neuroscience. In his free time, he enjoys cooking, playing basketball, practicing guitar, and volunteering.

Sukhneet Kaur, BS
Life Science Research Professional

Sukhneet graduated from Mount Holyoke College in May 2021, where she pursued a major in Neuroscience and a Psychology minor, with a concentration in Data Science. Here, she worked on analyzing event related potential (ERP) data, to filter the noise and artifacts using MATLAB, for multiple projects in the Couperus lab. Sukhneet also worked as an undergraduate student researcher in the Visual Cognition and Attention (VCA) lab at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. While at the VCA Lab, she worked with human eye tracking data to study different search strategies used while performing visual search tasks. Her undergraduate thesis emphasized that when a visual search task is easy people tend to use less efficient visual search strategies and that a visual search task must meet a ‘hardship threshold’ to encourage more efficient search strategies. Sukneet joined the Longo lab at Stanford University in August 2021 where her research focus is studying the therapeutic effects of small molecule ligands that bind to neurotrophic receptors in mouse models of neurodegenerative diseases, primarily Alzheimer’s. Her future goal is to pursue a PhD that focuses on the intersection of Psychology and Neuroscience, with an emphasis on studying consciousness. In her free time, Sukhneet likes to take leisure walks full of introspection and good music, paint abstract art (using acrylics and digital art tools), read Leo Tolstoy or Aldous Huxley, study philosophy and perception, and write Urdu poetry.

Undergraduate Researchers

Namitha Alexander, BS
Undergraduate Researcher