Grant Research

Guoyan Zhao receives grant for single-cell proteomics in the human brain

Guoyan Zhao, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Neuroscience, has received $433,000 from the National Institutes of Health to apply a cutting-edge imaging technology to study subcellular features of brain tissue from Alzheimer’s patients. The goal of the project is to identify characteristics of individual cells that relate to the pathology of the neurodegenerative disease. This knowledge could help explain the underlying changes in gene activity that attend Alzheimer’s disease and point to potential therapeutic opportunities.

guoyan zhao
Guoyan Zhao, PhD

Zhao’s team, in collaboration with Jinbin Xu, PhD, assistant professor of Radiology, and the Immunomonitoring Lab at the School of Medicine, which is led by Stephen Oh, MD, PhD, will adapt Imaging Mass Cytometry (IMC) to visualize signals from dozens of different proteins simultaneously, and all at single-cell resolution. This enables the researchers to determine which genes that code for these labeled proteins are active in which brain cell types. Although IMC has been adopted by other fields of biomedical science, including immunology and cancer research, Zhao’s project represents the first time IMC will be used to investigate Alzheimer’s disease.

“Optimizing IMC for human brain histology will benefit the broader neuroscience community by providing a methodological basis for using the technique in aging, brain development, neurodegeneration and other fields,” says Zhao.

The technology provides a number of advantages over existing approaches to single-cell gene expression analyses, including the ability to analyze up to 40 proteins at once; the elimination of autofluorescence—a problem common to visualizing brain tissue with fluorescent tags; the preservation of samples; and the ability to more accurately quantify results. Part of the grant will go to developing a computational pipeline for analyzing the imaging data.

Interested in this research? The Zhao Lab is hiring!