Faculty & Research

Investigators

To speed scientific discovery, it is important for scientists to remain in tune with the most up-to-date scientific research, findings, and trends. At the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children's Hospital, world-renowned researchers from a range of scientific disciplines will come together to contribute their specific expertise and accelerate the pace of discovery in pediatric neurological disorders.

Huda Y. Zoghbi, M.D., Director

Ralph D. Feigin, M.D., Endowed Chair

Professor, Departments of Pediatrics, Molecular and Human Genetics, Neurology, and Neuroscience, Baylor College of Medicine

Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Member, Institute of Medicine and National Academy of Sciences

"We will use research in the true sense of multidisciplinary research as a tool to eventually get treatments in patients. Whether they are childhood or adult neurodegenerative diseases, they can be reversed if we can figure out how to intervene."  

Internationally renowned scientist Dr. Huda Zoghbi serves as director of the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute. Dr. Zoghbi first made headlines when she co-discovered the gene that causes spinocerebellar ataxia type 1, a crippling neurological disease. She and her team then discovered that mutations in MeCP2 cause the neurodevelopmental disease Rett syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder.

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John W. Swann, Ph.D., Co-Director

Scientific Director, Gordon and Mary Cain Pediatric Neurology Research Foundation Laboratories, Texas Children's Hospital

Professor, Departments of Pediatrics and Neurosciences, Baylor College of Medicine

Former President, American Epilepsy Society

"Pediatric neurological diseases are bigger than any one lab. They are bigger than any one investigator. It's going to take a team."  

Dr. John W. Swann is the Co-director, Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute and the scientific director of Texas Children's Gordon and Mary Cain Pediatric Neurology Research Foundation Laboratories, where clinicians and research scientists are focused on understanding and ultimately curing the causes of childhood seizure disorders. Dr. Swann has shown that intractable focal seizures are related to problems in the early growth and migration of neurons. With the help of developmental neurobiologists and bioinformaticians, Dr. Swann's laboratory is working on identifying the molecules that could correct these errors.

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Genevera I. Allen, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics-Neurology, Baylor College of Medicine and the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute, Texas Children's Hospital

Assistant Professor, Department of Statistics, Rice University

Dr. Genevera Allen's research focuses on modeling structures in neuroimaging and genetics data to better understand their true biological relevance to conditions of the brain.

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Anne Anderson, M.D.

Prinicipal Investigator, Gordon and Mary Cain Pediatric Neurology Research Foundation Laboratories, Texas Children's Hospital

Associate Professor, Departments of Pediatrics, Neurology and Neurosciences, Baylor College of Medicine

Medical Director, Epilepsy Monitoring Unit, Texas Children's Hospital

Dedicated to discovering the cause of childhood epilepsy, Dr. Anne Anderson's research focuses on understanding the mechanisms involved in the development of the disease in the immature brain.

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Dora Angelaki, Ph.D.

Wilhelmina Robertson Professor & Chairman of Neuroscience department at the Baylor College of Medicine
Professor - Department of Psychology and Electrical and Computer Engineering, Rice University
The main research goal of our laboratory is to understand the mechanisms underlying multisensory integration for sensory processing and spatial navigation. Specifically we study the processing of visual and vestibular spatiotemporal information, and how such information is used to generate neural representations of space as a function of time.

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Andrea Ballabio, M.D., Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Molecular and Human Genetics, Baylor College of Medicine

Professor of Medical Genetics, Department of Pediatrics, University of Naples "Federico II"

Scientific Director, TIGEM (Telethon Institute of Genetics and Medicine), Naples, Italy

Driven to find the underlying causes of neurological diseases, Dr. Andrea Ballabio's research uses both traditional and state-of-the-art genomic approaches. He is currently studying lysosomal storage disorders and neurodegenerative diseases.

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Benjamin R. Arenkiel, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular and Human Genetics, Baylor College of Medicine and the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children's Hospital
The chief focus of Dr. Arenkiel's research is to understand how the interplay between genetics and neuronal activity form, refine and maintain specialized neural circuits in the brain.

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Hugo Bellen, D.V.M., Ph.D.

Charles Darwin Professor in Molecular and Human Genetics

March of Dimes Professor in Developmental Biology, Professor of Neuroscience

Director, Graduate Program in Developmental Biology, Baylor College of Medicine

Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Dr. Hugo Bellen's groundbreaking research efforts have revealed revolutionary information about neural development and neurotransmitter release. His research currently focuses on the role of genes in ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease.

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Juan Botas, Ph.D.

Professor, Departments of Molecular and Human Genetics, Molecular and Cellular Biology; Program in Cell and Molecular Biology, Baylor College of Medicine
The Botas lab takes a systems approach to find clues to the pathogenesis of various neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative diseases. To identify networks implicated in disease pathogenesis and suitable targets for therapeutic intervention, the lab integrates genome-scale disease modifier data with proteome, transcriptome and metabolome data.

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Yuri Dabaghian, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine, and the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children's HospitalAssistant Professor, Department of Computation and Applied Mathematics, Rice University
Dr. Dabaghian studies spatial perception in the brain. He develops theoretical models and experimental approaches for investigating how the brain creates spatial "maps" of the environment. His work currently focuses on modeling spatial learning and memory in the hippocampus and in the parietal cortex. He is also collaborating with Microsoft to develop a noninvasive diagnostic tool to identify spatial deficits early in the development of physiological dysfunction caused by disease.

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Tiemo Jürgen Klisch, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics , Baylor College of Medicine, and the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children's Hospital
Dr. Klisch studies the formation and progression of medulloblastoma (MB), an embryonic neuroepithelial tumor of the cerebellum in mice. MB is the most frequent malignant brain tumor in children representing up to 20% of tumors in the developing nervous system. His work focuses on deciphering the molecular mechanisms underlying medulloblastoma development to develop novel treatment options as well as improve the survival of children with medulloblastoma.

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Olivier Lichtarge, M.D., Ph.D.

Professor, Departments of Molecular and Human Genetics, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Pharmacology; Programs in Developmental Biology, Cell and Molecular Biology, and Structural and Computational Biology, and Molecular Biophysics, Baylor College of Medicine
Driven by his research in bioinformatics and computational genomics, Dr. Olivier Lichtarge is paving the way toward the next generation of bioinformatics methods, including the evolutionary trace (ET) method he helped develop.

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Zhandong Liu, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics- Neurology, Baylor College of Medicine and the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children's Hospital
Dr. Zhandong Liu's research focuses on developing approaches for analyzing complex biological data to help advance our understanding of neurological diseases.

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Hui-Chen Lu, Ph.D.

Member, Gordon and Mary Cain Pediatric Neurology Research Foundation Laboratories, Texas Children's Hospital

Associate Professor, Departments of Pediatrics and Neurosciences, and Program in Developmental Biology, Baylor College of Medicine

Dr. Hui-Chen Lu has focused her research efforts on developing tools to prevent neurodegeneration common in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. She is currently investigating the organization of neocortical circuits in newborns.

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Mirjana Maletić-Savatić, M.D., Ph.D.

Cynthia and Anthony G. Petrello Endowed Scholar, Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute, Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Baylor College of MedicineDana Foundation Awardee and McKnight Scholar
Dr. Mirjana Maletić-Savatić research endeavors have brought a new biomarker imaging method to fruition. Her research is currently focused on developing additional methodologies in translational research.

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David L. Nelson, Ph.D.

Cullen Foundation Professor, Department of Molecular and Human Genetics

Co-Director, Cell and Molecular Biology Graduate Program; Director, BCM-Emory Fragile X Research Center

Associate Director, Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center

Dr. Nelson has been involved in research into the causes of and therapies for Fragile X syndrome since the late 1980s, participating in the discovery of the mutation that results in the disorder and the gene that is affected by that mutation.

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Jeffrey L. Neul, M.D., Ph.D.

Adjunct Associate Professor, Departments of Pediatrics (Section of Neurology), Molecular and Human Genetics, Molecular Physiology and Biophysics at Baylor College of Medicine
As a leader in the research of children with Rett syndrome, Dr. Jeffrey L. Neul is currently studying the dopamine system in a mouse model to gain insights into the causes of autonomic dysfunction in children with the disease.

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Rodney C. Samaco, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular and Human Genetics, Baylor College of MedicineNIH Director's Early Independence Award Recipient
Dr. Samaco's pioneering research focuses on studying the key neuroanatomical and molecular determinants of social behavior using mouse models of syndromic autism. His work aims to uncover the molecular changes that are responsible for social behavior abnormalities in specific neuronal populations.

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Marco Sardiello, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular and Human Genetics, Baylor College of MedicineResearch Associate, TIGEM (Telethon Institute of Genetics and Medicine) Naples, Italy
Dr. Marco Sardiello is devoted to developing innovative therapies to treat the most common group of pediatric neurodegenerative diseases. His research is currently focused on the role of the Batten Gene, CLN3, in juvenile neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis.

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Christian P. Schaaf, M.D., Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular and Human Genetics, Baylor College of Medicine
Dr. Christian Schaaf is a clinical geneticist dedicated to understanding the genetic basis of neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric disorders. His research focuses on translating the understanding of the underlying cause into novel therapeutic strategies for some of these devastating conditions.

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Carmine Settembre, Ph.D.

Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular and Human Genetics, Baylor College of Medicine, and the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children's Hospital

Assistant Telethon Scientist Dulbecco Telethon Institute/TIGEM
Assistant Professor University Federico II of Naples

 

Autophagy is an essential, homeostatic process by which cells break down their own components by targeting them to the lysosome. Autophagy is critical in a range of normal human physiological processes since it is deputed to constitutive turnover of cytosolic components such as organelles and protein complexes. Defective autophagy is associated with diverse diseases, including neurodegeneration, cancers, and inflammatory disease. We demonstrated an impairment of autophagy as a major determinant of cellular dysfunction in Lysosomal Storage Disorders (LSDs), a family of diseases caused by mutations in lysosomal proteins. Thus modulation of autophagy represents an appealing option to treat human genetic disorders.

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Joshua M. Shulman, M.D., Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Departments of Neurology and Molecular and Human Genetics

    

Dr. Shulman is a physician-scientist with expertise in Parkinson's Disease and Alzheimer's Disease

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Roy V. Sillitoe, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Pathology & Immunology, Baylor College of MedicineDirector, Neuropathology Core, Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute of Texas Children's Hospital
Dr. Sillitoe has a long standing interest in using the cerebellar branch of the motor system as a model for understanding brain development and disease.

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Ignatia B. Van den Veyver, M.D.

Professor and Vice Chair for Research
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Professor and Director of Prenatal Genetics
Department of Molecular and Human Genetics
Co-director, Graduate Program in Translational Biology and Molecular Medicine (TBMM)
Dr. Van den Veyver's lab has focused on the X-linked neurodevelopmental disorders Aicardi and Goltz syndromes, identifying the underlying mutations and characterizing their functional effects through translational research combining the study of patients, cell culture and animal models. Her lab also investigates the epigenetic regulation of developmental programs, including various forms of hydatidiform moles, a serious placental abnormality caused by global defects in imprinting.

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Mingshan Xue, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor,Department of Neuroscience, Baylor College of Medicine and the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children's Hospital
Understanding cortical circuit function/development and how their abnormalities contributes to neurological disease pathogenesis

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Akash J. Patel, M.D.

Assistant Professor,
Department of Neurosurgery

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Shinya Yamamoto, D.V.M., Ph.D.

Assistant Professor,
Department of Molecular and Human Genetics and
Program in Developmental Biology,

Integration of fly genetic screens to next-gen sequencing techniques to identify novel human disease genes

 

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