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Kai-Christian Sonntag, M.D., Ph.D.


Available: 01/02/23, Expires: 01/02/25

Our lab studies a role of bioenergetics in Alzheimer's disease (AD). It is well known that metabolic changes are associated with the normal aging process, and our research aims to understand how these changes are linked to sporadic/late-onset AD (LOAD) pathogenesis. For this, we have developed a cell-based platform using skin fibroblasts from LOAD patients and healthy control individuals and therefrom generated induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) which are differentiated to brain cells, including neural progenitor cells, neurons, and astrocytes. Using this platform, we assess the cells’ bioenergetic profiles, changes in metabolism, transcriptional profiles, membrane compositions, the effects of LOAD risk factors, and associated cellular functions, in context of cell development, cell type, age, and disease. The goal of our program is to establish a 'personalized medicine approach' aiming to understand AD pathogenesis and to develop biomarkers or testing novel therapeutic strategies. In addition to LOAD, we also use this cellular platform to study energy metabolism in schizophrenia (SZ) patients’-derived cells. The student's project will be within the scope of the main studies with a focus on cellular bioenergetics and metabolic functions in the aging process and LOAD. In addition, we study other cell functions related to metabolic dysfunction in LOAD, the effects of LOAD risk factors like APOE, and we identify and test therapeutic molecules in our model system. The student will be involved in study design, experimental data generation, analyses, interpretation, and summarizing results in scientific reports. He/she will participate in and learn the principles of the cell platform and the iPSC paradigm in context of neuro-differentiation and -degeneration with a focus on AD or SZ. Some previous experiences working in a wet lab and in cell culture would be a benefit.

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Funded by the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences through its Clinical and Translational Science Awards Program, grant number UL1TR002541.