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Dr. Zhang’s research focus is on the use of proteomic techniques to discover novel proteins that are involved in chronic neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease (PD) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) as well as in the aging process. One of the hypotheses being tested in his lab is that there are unique protein markers for PD, PD progression, and PD dementia in brain tissue, and that some of these markers have the potential to be detected in human cerebrospinal fluid. These biomarkers, when validated, can complement or replace the current expensive yet not wisely accessible functional neuroimaging, e.g., fluorodopa positron-emission tomography (F-Dopa-PET) and beta-CIT single photon emission computer tomography (Beta-CIT-SPECT), in assisting with clinical diagnosis of PD and monitoring PD progression, including development of dementia. It should be emphasized that markers associated with aging and age-related diseases likely also play major roles in neural and glial development early in life.
Other areas of research in Zhang’s lab include (1) studying PD pathogenesis directly with human tissues collected at autopsy, or within in vivo and in vitro parkinsonian models, (2) investigating the contribution of environmental exposure to the development of PD, and (3) dissecting out molecular mechanisms, microglial activation in particular, responsible for PD progression.
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