Dr. Chad Leugers
Last updated September 12, 2016
Dr. Chad Leugers
My research interests are in brain development and in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. I approach both of these interests from a cell biology perspective and the experiments in my lab are aimed at gaining a better understanding of brain processes at the level of individual neurons. I culture a number of neuronal cell lines and primarily study the function of a microtubule-associated protein called tau and its interactions with other neuronal proteins. Tau is traditionally thought of as a microtubule stabilizing protein in the adult brain, but under disease conditions tau forms dense neurofibrillary tangles throughout the brain. These tangles are one of the primary hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases. Recently, it has been shown that tau also has functions as a signaling protein, and these functions may be especially important in the fetal brain when neuronal networks are developing, and in the diseased brain when cells are dying. Tau’s precise role in neuronal signaling remains unclear but recent evidence has shown that tau is able to enhance signaling through the MAPK signaling cascade. MAPK signaling can lead to everything from cell division to neuronal differentiation, to cell death in the diseased brain….which makes further investigation of tau’s role in this signaling a top priority! A better understanding of tau’s role in MAPK signaling may ultimately allow us to identify new therapeutic targets to combat neurodegenerative disease.
Students conducting research in my lab gain experience with a wide variety of techniques used in modern cell biology research labs such as neuronal cell culture, cell viability assays, microscopy, SDS-PAGE, Western Blotting, and more. Students also have the opportunity to present their research to the scientific community at regional and national conferences such as the Iowa Academy of Sciences and the Society for Neuroscience.