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.

Life Science Research Professionals

Juste Simanauskaite, BA
Life Science Research Professional

Juste received her B.A. in Neuroscience in 2021 from Pomona College, where she explored the effects of TNF-α inhibition on hippocampal cell density and neurofibrillary tangle formation in a PS19 transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease. Juste previously conducted research in the field of respiratory neuroscience at The University of Melbourne, where she examined RAGE protein expression and its mediation of HMGB1 following the introduction of a viral pulmonary mimetic in mice. During her time at Pomona College, Juste researched the effects of chronic stress on anhedonia, hippocampal spatial memory, and hippocampal LTP. Since joining the Longo Lab in June 2021, Juste’s research focus has been primarily on investigating the therapeutic effects of small molecule neurotrophin receptor ligands in mouse models of Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s disease. Specifically, she is looking at the effects of modulating p75NTR with LM11A-31 on neural activity using calcium imaging in freely behaving Huntington’s disease mice. Juste is also examining the effects of LM11A-31 on the morphology of parvalbuminergic interneurons in an amyloid mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease. Her future plans include pursing an MD/PhD with a particular focus in neurology and neurodegenerative diseases. In her free time, Juste enjoys dancing salsa, baking traditional Lithuanian treats, as well as hiking, running, and exploring Northern California.

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.

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.

Gavriella Silverman, BA
Life Science Research Professional

Gavriella received her B.A. in Neuroscience with a focus on Behavioral Neuroscience from Scripps College in 2021. While at Scripps College, she created and performed experiments to test early life stress on the development of African Cichlid fish using hormone extraction from waterborne samples. While in the Longo laboratory, during the summer of 2019 and presently, she has been exploring possible biological mechanisms underlying synaptic dysfunction and neurodegeneration in Alzheimer's Disease. Specifically, she has been investigating if small molecule neurotrophin receptor ligands may prevent the loss of synaptic function that occurs in the disase using protein co-localization analysis in mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease and tauopathy. Her future plans include pursing a PhD in Neuroscience and Psychology and applying her neuropathology research background to improve psychological care of patients. In her free time, she enjoys horseback riding, hiking, and reading.

William Johnson, BS
Life Science Research Professional

Will received his Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences from Cal Poly, SLO in 2021. While at Cal Poly, he studied the origin and maintenance of sexually selected traits in Girardinus metallicus, and applied qPCR and bioinformatics techniques to understand transcriptomic contributions to male-specific polymorphisms within the species. He also collaborated with Cal Poly's Department of Computer Science to optimize a deep-learning framework that identifies breast cancer subtypes from transcriptomic data. To do this, he embedded prior biological knowledge from the literature, attenuating network under specification by increasing predictor consistency. Since joining the Longo lab in July 2021, Will has been researching multi-omic and machine learning analyses of mouse models of Huntington's and Alzheimer's diseases. In particular, he examines therapeutics that impact neurotrophin signaling to rescue neuronal deficits. His future plans include pursuing a PhD in Bioinformatics with an emphasis on neural network architecture. Outside of the lab, Will enjoys cooking, reading, and running.

Undergraduate Researchers

Namitha Alexander, BS
Undergraduate Researcher