Research in the Stewart/Shi lab focuses on understanding the processes of neurodegeneration, and development of biomarkers to better identify and trace these diseases in patients. Our current projects feature the use of mass spectrometry and other technologies to quantify protein and RNA biomarkers; extracellular vesicles as sources of biomarkers and as vectors for spread of pathology within the body; and the interactions of genetic and environmental exposures (e.g., to environmental neurotoxicants) in PD.

  • Biomarkers for Alzheimer and Parkinson diseases

    • Accurate, sensitive quantification of protein-based targets, often in highly complex samples, is a major challenge in developing biomarkers for neurodegenerative diseases. We are addressing this need using 1) Proteomic profiling to identify candidates; 2) Candidate validation by using immunoassays and mass spectrometry (MS)-based assays, 3) MicroRNA profiling and validation. [read more...]
  • Extracellular vesicles in neurological diseases

    • Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are membrane-bound particles released by most cell types. Both exosomes and microvesicles are included in this classification. They participate in cell signaling, and have recently been implicated in the progression of neurodegenerative diseases. [read more...]
  • Glia in neurodegeneration

    • Glia, non-neuronal cells that serve an array of roles in the brain, including maintenance of brain homeostasis, coupling of neuronal activity and blood supply, and immune/inflammatory responses in the brain, are also involved in neurodegenerative processes. Our lab studies glial interactions with neurons, their responses to pathogenic proteins, and their roles in responding to environmental or systemic factors that influence neurodegenerative diseases. Among our recent discoveries is the finding that glial cells in the brain internalize and respond to EVs that enter the brain, suggesting previously unknown effects of interactions between the blood and the brain in Parkinson’s disease pathogenesis.

  • Neurotoxicity and Parkinson disease

    • Both genetic variations and exposure to environmental factors are known to influence the pathogenesis of Parkinson’s disease. Our ongoing work also targets the interactions of these factors in the development of the disease, particularly considering how exposures to environmental toxicants, and the potential effects on subsequent Parkinson’s disease, might be reflected in biomarkers isolated from the blood.