Gerard Ahern: Ion channels and sensory receptors

Associate Professor, Pharmacology and Physiology
Ahern Lab
Office: Med-Dent SW401
Lab: Med-Dent SW402
Education: BSc (Hons), 1990, LL. B., 1991, University of Canterbury NZ, PhD 1996 (Australian National University)
Current Research: How do cells detect changes in the external or extracellular environment? We are interested in the fundamental mechanisms that allow cells to sense diverse chemical or physical stimuli. Our focus is a class of membrane ion channels called "Transient Receptor Potential" (TRP) channels. We also explore novel ligand signaling at G-protein coupled receptors both in neurons and immune cells. We use a combination of electrophysiological, cell imaging, genetic and biochemical techniques, and where possible, appropriate animal models. 

Tinatin I. Brelidze: Structure and function of ion channels

Assistant Professor, Pharmacology and Physiology
Brelidze Lab
Office: Med-Dent SE406
Lab: Med-Dent SE406
Education: Diploma in Physics (Hons), Tbilisi State University (Georgia), 1996; Ph.D. Physiology & Biophysics, University of Miami, 2003
Current Research: Ion channels are guardians of membrane potential and are essential for the physiological function of every living cell. Abnormalities in ion channel opening and closing (gating) or expression pattern are often linked to inherited or acquired diseases. Our research interests are focused on understanding the mechanisms of ion channel gating. To uncover the novel mechanisms of ion channel gating we use a combination of electrophysiology, X-ray crystallography and fluorescence based methods. 


Instructor, Pharmacology and Physiology
Office: Med-Dent NW407
Lab: Med-Dent NW409, NW411
Education: Ph.D. (Neuroscience) Georgetown University, 2014
Current Research: My research focuses on how nicotine and selective nicotinic like drugs cause weight loss. Specifically, I am interested in understanding the critical role of nicotinic receptor desensitization in body weight regulation. Animal models of obesity, selective nicotinic-like drugs (agonists and antagonists), in vivo drug administration protocols, metabolic phenotyping, as well as more recently radioligand binding assays are used. The aim of this research is to apply our understanding of how nicotine is able to lower body weight and suppress food intake toward development of nicotine-based therapeutics for weight loss.  

Rhonda Dzakpasu: Spatio-temporal patterning in in vitro neural systems

Associate Professor, Physics and Pharmacology
Neural Dynamics Lab
(202) 687-4918
Office: Med-Dent SE 407
Lab: Med-Dent SE 407
Education: University of Michigan, Ph.D., 2003 
Current Research: We use arrays of extracellular multi-electrodes to record and stimulate electrical activity from cultured neural circuits as well as from acute neural slices. We modulate network rhythmicity by manipulating the balance between excitation and inhibition to investigate the principles by which neurons interact. What is the causal role of emergent coherent activity for neuronal communication?

Patrick A. Forcelli: Neuropharmacology and neural circuits of epilepsy

Assistant Professor, Pharmacology & Physiology
Office: NRB W214
Education: Ph.D. (Neuroscience), Georgetown University, 2011
Current Research:  1. Vulnerability of the developing brain to drug induced damage - Anti-seizure medications (also called anticonvulsant or antiepileptic drugs) are the mainstay of treatment for epilepsy. However, the use of these medications in special populations (e.g., pregnant women with epilepsy, neonates with seizures) poses a challenge due to the exquisite sensitivity of the developing brain to perturbations of neural activity. Many commonly utilized anti seizure drugs induce apoptosis in the neonatal rat brain, disrupt functional and morphological synaptic development, and alter behavioral function. We are continuing to examine this class of drugs to characterize effects on brain development, identify mechanisms of toxicity and search for therapeutic approaches to minimize long-term effects. We employ a combination of histological, biochemical, physiological, behavioral and imaging approaches to address these questions.

2. Hippocampal and basal ganglia circuits in seizure progression. The same neural circuits through which seizures propagate are vital participants in normal cognitive and emotional function. We are examining hippocampal and basal ganglia contributions to both normal behavior and to seizure propagation. To determine the role of these circuits we are using a combination of lesions, focal pharmacological (in rodents and primates), electrical, and state of the art pharmacogenetic and optogenetic methods. These techniques are used to perturb circuit function during behavioral tasks as well as in animal models of seizures/epilepsy. Finally, we are also assessing the ability of shRNA-mediated knockdown of select targets within these circuits to delay or prevent the development of epilepsy. 

Adriane Fugh-Berman: Pharmaceutical marketing, dietary supplements, herbs

Associate Professor, Pharmacology & Physiology
Office: NRB W215
Education: M.D., Georgetown University, 1988
Current Research: I direct PharmedOut, a research and education project that promotes rational prescribing practices. I research industry marketing techniques and how they interact with the culture of medicine, and teach physicians, other health care providers, graduate and medical students about clinical trials and evidence-based prescribing. I also teach about the risks and benefits of botanical medicines and dietary supplements, and direct the Urban Herbs project, an ecologic gardening project with various demonstration gardens on the GUMC campus. With Dr. Tom Sherman, I co-direct a new track in Natural Products within the masters program in pharmacology. I also direct theUrban Herbs project on the Georgetown campus. This is a garden project illustrating many medicinal plants. 

Richard A. Gillis: Neural circuits in brain that control GI function

Professor, Pharmacology and Physiology
Gillis Lab
(202) 687-1607
Office: NW408 Med-Dent
Lab: NW407 Med-Dent
Education: McGill University, Ph.D. 1965 
Current Research: Research in our laboratory focuses on neural circuits that control gastrointestinal function and food intake. The methods used include patch clamp electrophysiology in slices of the brain stem, in vivo recordings of end organ function, microinjection of drugs into the brain, and electron microscopy coupled with immuno-histochemistry. These techniques are used to map the pathways in the brain that affect end organs (such as the stomach), and affect food intake. 

Robert Glazer: PPAR receptors and stem cell genes in tumorigenesis

Professor, Oncology
Glazer Lab
(202) 687-8324
Office: Research Bldg W318
Lab: Research Bldg W317, W321, W324
Education: Ph.D., Indiana University, 1970
Current Research: Role of the nuclear receptor PPARdelta, a ligand-dependent transcription factor, involved in oxidative metabolism and tumorigenesis. We examine the oncogenic and metabolomic signaling pathways in a mouse model and in tumor cell lines. We established a PPARdelta-dependent gastric cancer model sensitive to a PPARdelta suicide inhibitor. Other studies concern the role of stem cell antigen-1 (Sca-1) in mammary tumorigenesis. Sca-1 is a marker of stem and early progenitor cells, but the function has remained a mystery. We have found that Sca-1 inhibits TGF- signaling through a unique pathway that activates Smad3. Loss of Sca-1 also reactivates other tumor suppressor genes, such as PTEN and PPARgamma. Thus, our current research focuses on the inter-relationships between oncogenic and stem cell pathways and their roles in modulating tumorigenesis. 

Yvonne Hernandez: Director of the Medical Pharmacolgy course

Associate Professor, Pharmacology
Hernandez Home Page
(202) 687-5179
Office: Med-Dent NW406
Education: Ph.D. (Pharmacology), Georgetown University


Ken Kellar: Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in CNS and peripheral nervous system

Professor, Pharmacology and Physiolgy
Lab Website
(202) 687-1032
Office: Medical Dental Bldg NE413
Lab: Medical Dental Bldg NE416-420
Education: Ph.D., Pharmacology, The Ohio State University, 1974
Current Research: My laboratory studies the subunit composition, pharmacological properties and regulation of neuronal nicotinic receptors. We are particularly interested in understanding the importance of desensitization of these receptors and the mechanisms by which chronic exposure to nicotine increases these receptors in brain. 

Kathy Maguire-Zeiss: Parkinson's Disease: Role of synuclein & inflammation

Associate Professor, Neuroscience
MaguireZeiss Lab
Office: NRB EP08
Lab: NRB EP08
Education: Albright College, BS, 1981; Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, Ph.D., 1987
Current Research: My laboratory is focused on understanding the mechanisms involved in age-related progressive neurodegenerative diseases. Specifically, we are investigating why the nigrostriatal pathway degenerates in Parkinson's disease (PD). Although the cause of PD is unknown we believe that the etiology involves both genetic changes and environmental toxicants. We are currently following several lines of investigation including the role of increased oxidative stress, protein misfolding and inflammation using mouse transgenic and toxicant models as well as cell culture technologies. Thus far we have shown that one protein known to be involved in Parkinson's disease, α-synuclein, can increase oxidative stress and proinflammatory molecules suggesting that these molecular events are important early in this disease. We hope our studies will help us to better understand how inflammation is involved early in PD. Finally, our goal is to develop novel therapies for PD.

Ludise Malkova: Neural substrates of emotional and social behavior in animal models

Associate Professor, Pharmacology
Office: NRB, W209B
Lab: DCM
Education: BA, MA Charles University Prague, Czech Republic; Ph.D. (1986) Czechoslovak Academy Sciences, Prague, Czech Republic
Current Research: Neural substrates of social and emotional behavior; the role of the amygdala and orbitofrontal cortex in processing reward; medial temporal lobe structures (hippocampus, perirhinal cortex) and cognitive functions (object recognition and spatial memory); amygdala and midbrain (superior colliculus) interactions; autism, PTSD; reversible pharmacological manipulations of discrete brain structures, systemic drug effects.

Italo Mocchetti: Neurobiology of neurotrophic factors

Professor and Vice-Chair, Neuroscience, secondary appointment in Pharmacology
Dr. Mocchetti's homepage
Office: NRB, WP13
Lab: NRB, EG19
Education: Ph.D., University of Milan, Italy, 1982
Current Research: Neurotrophic factors influence axon and dendrite growth, synaptic plasticity and neurogenesis, and the interaction of neurons with glial cells. They play critical roles in preventing neurological diseases including Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, stroke and epilepsy, but they can also promote neuronal apoptosis. Our laboratory has recently demonstrated that the neurotrophin brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) modulates the expression and function of chemokine receptors that contribute to AIDS dementia complex. We envision this research as catalyzing important new efforts to translate the basic science of the neurotrophins into effective new treatments for neurodegenerative diseases. 

Susan Mulroney: Director: Special Master's Program

Professor, Pharmacology and Physiology
SMP Website
(202) 687-1017
Office: Med-Dent NE409
Lab: Med-Dent NE407
Education: Georgetown University MS, 1988, Ph.D. (Physiology), 1990
Currenly: I am Director of the Special Master's Program, and spend my time primarily in administrative and educational work. I also direct and give the physiology lectures in the medical Gastrointestinal Biology course, and have been working actively on helping implement the graduate programs at GeorgeSquared (the joint Georgetown/George Mason collaboration). I continue to be active in collaborative research studying the impact of gonadal sex on the development of diabetic renal disease and cardiovascular disease. I am also co-author (with Dr Adam Myers) of the Netter's Essential Physiology textbook.

Adam Myers: Assoc. Dean & Asst. Vice President for Special Graduate Programs

Professor, Pharmacology and Physiology
(202) 687-1766
Office: Med-Dent NE405
Education: Georgetown University (Physiology) Ph.D.
Currently: I am Associate Dean and Assistant Vice President for Special Graduate Programs. My research over the years has been in the field of cardiovascular physiology, most recently in megakaryocyte electrophysiological responses to purinergic agonists and the effects of aspirin on these responses. Earlier research focused on effects of alcohol on platelet function as well as cardiovascular effects of anesthestics, sex steroids and antiplatelet agents. In my role as Associate Dean and Assistant Vice President, I am involved in the development of new educational initiatives. Over the past decade, I have played a role in the establishment of the Georgetown Summer Medical Institute, Complementary & Alternative Medicine Program (MS in Physiology), Advanced Biomedical Sciences Certificate Program, and MS in Biomedical Sciences, the latter two being joint programs with George Mason University.

Daniel Pak: Molecular mechanisms of synaptic plasticity

Associate Professor, Pharmacology and Physiology
Molecular Neurobiology of Memory [mNeMe]
(202) 687-8750
Office: Med-Dent C405
Lab: Med-Dent C405
Education: Harvard University, B.A., 1991; University of California at Berkeley, PhD, 1996
Current Research: My laboratory is interested in the molecular changes that occur at CNS synapses in response to experience. We utilize a combination of approaches ranging from molecular biology and biochemistry to cell biology, imaging, and mouse genetics to address three major questions: 1) how do neurons encode long-term storage of information? 2) how do neurons maintain stability of function by homeostatic synaptic plasticity mechanisms? and 3) how does failure of these mechanisms contribute to neurological and neurodegenerative disorders?

John Partridge: Small molecule neurotransmitters in the basal ganglia

Associate Professor, Pharmacology & Physiology
Lab Website
(202) 687-5196
Office: BSB 235
Lab: BSB 230
Education: Xavier, BS, 1993; Vanderbilt, PhD, 2000
Current Research: My varied research interests include determining the mechanisms governing synaptic transmission in the dorsal striatum using electrophysiological, genetic and biochemical methods. The striatum is a crucially important brain region involved in the smooth execution of motor control and other various functions. Disruptions in striatal physiology result in debilitating motor problems exemplified by Parkinson's disease and Huntington's disease. My research goals are to more fully understand the complex interactions of small molecule neurotransmitters in the striatum. These include investigating the relationships and crosstalk among glutamate, dopamine, acetylcholine and endocannabinoids governing normal and pathological states which dictate striatal output.

G. William Rebeck: APOE and Alzheimer's Disease

Professor, Department of Neuroscience
Rebeck Lab
Office: NRB WP-10
Lab: NRB WP-04; NRB WP-27
Education: A.B. (Cornell University 1982); Ph.D. (Harvard University, 1991)
Current Research: I have been studying the effect of APOE on Alzheimer's disease pathogenesis since 1993. APOE is the strongest genetic risk factor for Alzheimer's disease, with the APOE4 allele increasing the risk of Alzheimer's disease by over three-fold. We study the role of apoE in synapse formation and neuronal signaling, and its effects on glial activation using cell lines and primary cell culture systems. In particular, we focus on the family of cell surface apoE receptors, which play important roles in cholesterol regulation, neuronal migration in development, and cell signaling. We also study APOE knock-in mice, which express the human APOE alleles under the endogenous mouse APOE promoter. We have found that the APOE4 mice have reduced neuronal complexity and increased sensitivity to glial activation These effects of APOE occur in the absence of Alzheimer's disease pathological changes, suggesting that APOE also affects normal brain patterns and functions.

Juan M. Saavedra: Neurodegenerative, traumatic, and mood disorders

Adjunct Professor, Department of Pharmacology & Physiology
Laboratory of Neuroprotection Website
Education: M.D. Buenos Aires University, Argentina 1965
Current Research: At the NIH, Dr. Saavedra’s research interests included molecular and physiological aspects of endocrine and cardiovascular regulation, and more recently mechanisms of neuroprotection in stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, mood disorders and Traumatic Brain Injury. The main objective of the research was to find novel therapies for inflammatory, degenerative, mood and traumatic disorders of the brain. In September 2013 Dr. Saavedra transitioned from NIH to Georgetown University, where he joined the Department of Pharmacology and Physiology. In his new laboratory, Dr. Saavedra continues his work to advance his more recent finding, the observation that a novel class of compounds, the sartans, previously used for the treatment of cardiovascular and metabolic disorders, are potent neuroprotective agents and may be of significant therapeutic relevance for the treatment of neurodegenerative, mood and traumatic brain disorders.

Niaz Sahibzada: Central nervous system control of gastrointestinal function

Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacology & Physiology
Office: 410 Med/Dent
Lab: 412 Med/Dent
Education: Ph.D. (Neuroscience) University of Sheffield, England 1990
Current Research: The emphasis of research in my laboratory is on understanding the brain neurocircuits that regulate the function of the upper gastrointestinal tract such as those that control gastric tone and motility. To this end, we employ varied approaches that include microinjection of chemical substances in the brain, recordings of end organ function, patch-clamp electrophysiology in brain slices and neuroanatomical tract tracing.

Tom Sherman: A director of SMP program; teach nutrition, metabolism, endocrinology

Professor, Department of Pharmacology & Physiology
Office: NE407 Med/Dent
Education: Ph.D. (Biochemistry) University of Texas Southwestern, 1983)
Interests: nutrition and the impact of nutrition on metabolism, body weight, chronic disease risks, and mental health; corporate influences on food production.
Administration: Associate Director of the Special Masters Program, Director of the Biomedical Sciences PhD Program and chair of the Graduate Advisory Committee that regulates and establishes graduate school policy at the medical center; represent the medical center on the Graduate School Academic Integrity Committee.
Medical teaching: Co-director of medical Metabolism, Nutrition & Endocrinology course. Graduate teaching includes Cell & Molecular Physiology, Fundamentals of Molecular Biology & Genetics, Human Nutrition & Health, Advanced Topics in Nutrition, and directs the Regulatory Systems module for the Interdisciplinary Program in Neuroscience. 

Yuichiro Suzuki: (1) Redox signaling (2) Pulmonary hypertension & right heart failure

Professor, Pharmacology & Physiology
(202) 687-8090
Office: NW402a Med/Dent
Lab: NW403 Med/Dent
Education: PhD, Medical College of Virginia,1991
Current Research: The general goal of my laboratory is to investigate signal transduction mechanisms for cardiac and smooth muscle cell regulation in order to develop therapeutic strategies against various heart and lung diseases. I have a long-standing interest in how redox processes regulate cell signaling, and my laboratory continues to contribute to the understanding of the mechanism of redox signaling. Another major focus of my laboratory is to study mechanisms of cell growth and death in pulmonary vascular smooth muscle and right heart muscle. We seek to develop therapeutic strategies to treat pulmonary hypertension patients, without adversely affecting the weakened right heart. 

Raymond Scott Turner: Immunotherapies in mouse models of Alzheimer's Disease

Professor, Neurology
Memory Disorders Program
(202) 687-7337
Office: 202B Bldg. D
Lab: 268 Bldg. D
Education: MD, PhD, Emory Univ.,1988
Current Research: Active and passive immunization strategies for transgenic Alzheimer's disease (AD) mouse models. Molecular mechanisms, therapeutic effects on memory/behavior and on CNS neuropathologies, and neuroinflammatory effects. Role of ApoE genotype on immunotherapies by using hApoE knock-in AD transgenic mice. 

Stefano Vicini: Ligand gated channels at central synapses

Professor, Pharmacology & Physiology
Lab of Cellular and Molecular Neurophysiology
(202) 687-6441
Office: BSB, 225
Lab: BSB, 228-230
Education: Ph.D., U Torino, Italy, 1979
Current Research: Using transgenic mice with the two major striatal output pathways labeled we are answering a fundamental question: What role tonic and phasic GABA and NMDA conductance plays in striatal disorders? We are studying the functional consequence of the activation of distinct dopamine receptors on NMDA and GABAa receptor subytpes.Our study has great potential to identify novel therapeutic targets for treating disorders associated with striatal dysfunction including Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, tardive dyskinesia, Tourette's syndrome and drug addiction.

Jennifer Whitney: Associate Director, SMP

Instructor, Pharmacology & Physiology
SMP website
Office: NE404 Med-Dent
Education: Ph.D. (Physiology) Georgetown University 
Current Responsibilities: Dr. Whitney teaches the non-cadaveric Gross Anatomy lectures for the Cardiopulmonary Biology, GI Biology, and Sexual Development & Reproduction courses, and is also Course Director for the Advanced Physiology & Pathophysiology graduate course. Dr Whitney also is director of the summer Medical Physiology course for GSMI. Her research interests are on growth homone-mediated sex differences in diabetic renal disease. 

Barry B. Wolfe: Structure and function of ligand-gated ion channels

Professor, Pharmacology & Physiology
Dr. Wolfe's website
Office: SW407 Med-Dent
Lab: NE411 Med-Dent
Education: B.S. UCLA, 1967; M.S. (Chemistry) CSUN, 1969; Ph.D. (Chemistry) U.C. Santa Barbara, 1973
Current Research: Dr. Wolfe is not available as a PhD thesis mentor but is available as a co-mentor or thesis committee member or a mentor for MS projects. The major project involves neuronal nicotinic receptors. These recptors for acetylcholine are important in the brain, mediating nicotine addiction, memory and learning as well as most of the neurotransmission in the peripheral nervous system. These receptors are composed of five subunits that assemble to generate a functional receptor. Many different subunits exist that are used to form nicotinic receptors in the brain and the periphery and the properties of the receptors depend on the subunit composition, stoichiometry, and order. Our studies focus on generating receptors of known composition, stoichiometry, and order and characterizing them pharmacologically and physiologically to be able to understand, for example, why a specific SNP in the alpha5 subunit is associated with excessively heavy smoking.

Robert P. Yasuda: Structure and function of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors

Assistant Professor, Pharmacology & Physiology
Yasuda Lab
Office: Med-Dent SW407 
Lab: Med-Dent NE411
Education: University of Colorado, Ph.D. (Pharmacology) 1986
Current Research: My laboratory is involved in the study of the structure and function of neuronal nicotinic receptors in the brain that are composed of five protein subunits that act as ligand-gated ion channels. These receptors are thought to be involved in the ncotine addition seen in smokers. We utilize molecular biological, biochemical and electrophysiological methods to study these receptors. Specifically, we are interested in understanding the nature of the nicotine binding site and how the order of these nicotinic receptor subunits affects function. One approach we are currently using is the creation of concatamers of the nicotinic receptor subunits that allow us to make receptors composed of subunits of known order and composition.

There are also a number of adjunct faculty at neighboring institutions that serve as co-mentors for student theses and for laboratories available for rotation projects.