Labs & Facilities


World-class science happens in world-class facilities

At the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute (ZNI), our award-winning building is home to state-of-the-art laboratories run by top-tier scientists who are achieving strong recognition for their research into the areas of receptor biology, gene regulation, cellular and systems neurobiology, molecular epidemiology, and developmental therapeutics. Every aspect of ZNI was designed to facilitate research and foster a culture of collaboration and discovery.

Our Labs & Facilities

ZNI itself has more than 30 active laboratories in over 70,000 square feet of lab space. In addition to a café, collaboration rooms, offices and a 40-seat multi-media presentation room, our six-story, 125,000-square-foot building includes an 8,100-square-foot vivarium, tissue culture rooms, cold rooms, crystallography, crystal growing, dark rooms, sequencing and a 700MHz/54mm ultra shield magnet. With these tools, our scientists are conducting the following research.

The Protein Structure Group
Alzheimer and Related Diseases
Ralf Langen, PhD, Ansgar Siemer, PhD and Tobias Ulmer, PhD
Investigating the structure of proteins involved in debilitating diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease. Because many disorders of the nervous system are thought to arise from alterations in the structure of cellular proteins, these studies aim to help us understand the molecular basis of neural pathology with a look toward devising new treatments for the cure and prevention of these diseases.

The Bonnin Lab
Psychiatric Genetics
Alex Bonnin, PhD
Investigating how placental function affects fetal brain development, specifically looking at the impact of maternal infections in pregnancy and separately and the effects of maternal stress and antidepressant treatment. This research uncovers new molecular pathways for the developmental origins of mental disorders.

The Chang Lab
Alzheimer and Related Diseases
Karen Chang, PhD
Trying to determine the role nebula/DSCR1 plays in ameliorating axonal transport defects and memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Also trying to identify the genotype to phenotype correlations in Down syndrome.

The Chen Lab
Jeannie Chen, PhD
Understanding how an intracellular signaling cascade is regulated within rod and cone photoreceptor cells, and how this contributes to the specialized ability of these cells to detect dim light and bright light, respectively and how mutations within this signaling cascade leads to blindness.

The Chow Lab
Robert Chow, MD, PhD
Advancing our understanding of how neuronal and hormone secretion (exocytosis) is controlled in normal and pathological states. Part of the lab focuses on fundamental mechanisms (SNARE-mediated secretion) and the other on disease processes (diabetes, retinal and neuro- degeneration) or how to treat diseases (retinal degeneration).

The Coba Lab
Psychiatric Genetics
Marcelo Coba, PhD
Investigating how candidate risk factors associated to schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders work together in common signaling pathways, combining state-of-the-art mass spectrometry, proteomics, bioinformatics, mouse genetics and human stem cell methods. This strategy helps determine core signaling mechanisms and protein complexes, altered through development in schizophrenia, providing new molecular targets for treatment.

The Conti Lab
David Conti, PhD
Developing novel statistical methods to analyze next-generation sequencing data to discovery genetic variants involved in disease. This work is heavily integrated into his applied collaborations examining the genetic contribution to smoking progression and cessation, multiple sclerosis, colon and prostate cancer, asthma, lymphoma and psychiatric disorders.

The Dong Lab
Alzheimer and Related Diseases
Hong-Wei Dong, MD, PhD
Studying the organizational principle of the brain wiring and how these circuits are disrupted in mouse models of Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.

The Kalluri Lab
Radha Kalluri, PhD
Examining how biophysical differences between subpopulations of bipolar afferent neurons in the auditory and vestibular systems influence their function and their susceptibility to damage.

The Langen Lab
Alzheimer and Related Diseases
Ralf Langen, PhD
Researching on the basic areas of protein folding and misfolding with particular emphasis on these processes when they occur on or around membranes.

The Mack Lab
William Mack, MD
Deploying an experimental strategy to determine the effects of air pollution on acute stroke, which is a leading cause of death and disability worldwide. He is further investigating innovative treatment platforms for rapid delivery of neuroprotective agents to otherwise inaccessible cortical territories in the setting of acute stroke.

The Ohyama Lab
Takahiro Ohyama, PhD
Investigating how the cochlea, the auditory organ, develops during embryonic development. They discovered BMP signaling pathway is important for cell fate decision between sensory and non-sensory structure of mammalian cochlea. The Ohyama lab is also analyzing the mechanisms how migrating neural crest cells are incorporated into the non-sensory structure of developing cochlea, which is crucial for proper hearing functions. These projects aim to understand disease mechanisms of hearing impairment and develop translational research such as regeneration of auditory cells.

The Peti-Peterdi Lab
Janos Peti-Peterdi, MD, PhD
Exploring renal (patho) physiology, specifically the intrarenal mechanisms involved in the control of blood pressure and body fluid balance under normal and disease conditions (hypertension, diabetes).

The Sieburth Lab
Derek Sieburth, PhD
Combining behavioral, genetic, RNA interference and live imaging techniques to dissect synaptic function at a systems and molecular level in the C. elegans model.

The Siemer Lab
Alzheimer and Related Diseases
Ansgar Siemer, PhD
Describing on a structural level how some amyloid fibrils can be toxic and responsible for neurodegenerative diseases, while others have beneficial functions as for example in long-term memory. The latter question is addressed in their research on the Orb2 functional amyloid, which is a key regulator of long-term memory in Drosophila.

The Tao Lab
Huizhong Tao, PhD
Exploring how functional visual circuits are organized to achieve specific cortical processing functions and how these circuits are established during development. She is currently examining how neural activity of various patterns leads to modulations of synaptic connections and shapes the formation of visual circuits.

The Zada Lab
Gabriel Zada, MD
Utilizing next-generation genomic and epigenomic profiling (i.e. DNA Methylation analysis) to study the behavior of various brain tumors. In particular, he is interested in studying the process of local tumor invasion and developing molecular classification systems for various skull base tumors, including pituitary tumors and meningiomas. He is also working to develop novel treatment strategies for skull base tumors using intranasal therapy systems.

The Zhang Lab
Li Zhang, PhD
Understanding the structure and function of neural circuits so as to decipher the brain, which includes four aspects: 1) how neural circuits assemble and operate; 2) how circuit structure determines behavioral function; 3) how circuit functions are modulated; and 4) how circuit disorders lead to brain disorders. Huizhong Tao’s work also explores establishment and development of functional visual circuits (please see The Tao Lab above).

The Zlokovic Lab
Alzheimer and Related Diseases
Berislav Zlokovic, MD, PhD
Understanding the role of cerebral blood vessels and the blood-brain barrier (BBB) in pathogenesis of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and amytrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) for the foundation of developing new therapies for AD, related neurodegenerative disorders and stroke.