Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Parkinson’s disease (PD), Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) cause enormous human suffering, strain families, and pose large challenges for societies and healthcare systems. None of these diseases has a cure. AD and PD together afflict half of the population over the age of 80. While deaths due to cancer, heart disease, stroke and HIV have declined since 2000, deaths due to AD have increased by 70 percent. The reason we do not have effective prevention or treatment is because we do not understand the fundamental biology of neurodegeneration. Dr. Ming Guo, a UCLA scientist and board-certified practicing neurologist, is at the forefront of discovering why cells in the brain degenerate and how the process can be stopped.
Dr. Guo’s lab studies neurodegenerative diseases (including AD, PD, FTD, and myopathy) and regeneration. She uses models of these diseases and patient cells to identify the underlying causes of neurodegeneration in order to develop effective treatments. Much of her work focuses on the role of mitochondria—small organelles that are present in every cell—in aging and disease. Mitochondria generate the bulk of the energy used to power the brain, muscle, heart, and other tissues. Each mitochondrion has a genome. Unfortunately, mitochondrial DNA naturally accumulates damage as we age. This damage can lead to decreased energy production and cell malfunction, which promote age-related diseases such as AD and PD, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and loss of muscle strength. Dr. Guo has identified key genes that promote healthy mitochondrial function and have the ability to eliminate defective mitochondrial DNA. These discoveries enable the development of therapies that prevent neurodegeneration.
Visit Guo Lab