Katerina Akassoglou, PhD

Senior Investigator

Phone: (415) 734-2512
Fax: (415) 355-0824
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Other Professional Titles

Professor, Neurology, University of California, San Francisco

Director, Gladstone/UCSF Center for In Vivo Imaging Research

Associate Adjunct Professor, Pharmacology, University of California, San Diego 

Administrative Assistant

Tracey Dunitz
(415) 734-2531
tracey.dunitz@gladstone.ucsf.edu

More about Dr. Akassoglou

Dr. Akassoglou is a leader in the field of neurological disease, with a special emphasis on multiple sclerosis (MS). Throughout her career, she has studied the biological ‘triggers’ that play a role in brain immunology—that is, immune processes within or outside the brain that affect brain functions and/or diseases. In particular, Dr. Akassoglou has investigated how a blood protein called fibrinogen can seep into the brain and spinal cord, which can contribute to neurodegenerative diseases. Her aim is to understand, at the molecular level, the mechanisms that control communication between the brain, immune system and blood vessels—with the ultimate goal of designing new therapies that slow, halt or reverse the progression of a wide range of neurological disorders, particularly MS.

Recently, Dr. Akassoglou’s lab identified how microglia—a type of immune cell that acts as the brain’s first line of defense—are activated when fibrinogen enters the brain or spinal cord. Moreover, she showed the critical roles that fibrinogen plays in brain trauma and neuronal functions. She also identified a potential way to block the damaging effects of fibrinogen as it enters the brain that still maintains fibrinogen’s important blood-clotting abilities.

Dr. Akassoglou has also uncovered the precise roles that neurotrophins—a type of protein found in the brain—play in metabolism and tissue repair.  Dr. Akassoglou takes a multifaceted approach to her research, incorporating both traditional and innovative techniques. For example, she directs Gladstone’s Center for In Vivo Imaging Research, which uses high-resolution cutting-edge in vivo imaging analysis to monitor molecular changes in the brains of live animals over time.

Among her numerous honors and awards, Dr. Akassoglou won the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on outstanding early-career scientists and engineers. In 2008 she became just the fourth woman in 60 years to receive the John J. Abel Award, which is given to a young investigator for original and outstanding research contributions in the field of pharmacology.

A native of Greece, Dr. Akassoglou earned both a bachelor's of science in biology and a PhD in neurobiology at the University of Athens, Greece. Prior to coming to Gladstone in 2008, she was trained in neuropathology by Hans Lassmann at the University of Vienna. Dr. Akassoglou completed her postdoctoral work at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, Rockefeller University with Sid Strickland and New York University with Moses Chao.

More scientific details, please

Other Professional Titles

Professor, Neurology, University of California, San Francisco

Director, Gladstone/UCSF Center for In Vivo Imaging Research

Associate Adjunct Professor, Pharmacology, University of California, San Diego

Administrative Assistant

Tracey Dunitz
(415) 734-2531
tracey.dunitz@gladstone.ucsf.edu

Areas of Investigation

Our laboratory studies mechanisms of neurovascular regulation of inflammation and tissue repair. Our current research focuses on identifying the molecular and cellular interface that blood proteins utilize to interact with nervous system cells and change their functions.

Rupture of this vasculature allows the entry of blood proteins into the brain with subsequent edema formation and neuronal damage in a variety of neurologic diseases, such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease and spinal cord injury. We aim to unravel the molecular mechanisms of the central nervous system’s (CNS) response to neurovascular changes with the ultimate goal to develop novel therapeutic strategies for neurologic diseases.

Current Lab Focus

  • What is the functional role of BBB disruption in inflammation and neurodegeneration in neurologic diseases?
  • How does fibrinogen affect neuronal and glial functions?
  • Can the beneficial effect of fibrinogen inhibition be exploited therapeutically?
  • What are the biological functions of the neurotrophin receptor p75NTR?

Joined Gladstone

2008

Why Gladstone?

Extraordinary science and infrastructure with ample opportunities for translational research.

Key Achievements

  • Showed that blood proteins are not merely markers of blood-brain barrier disruption, but play a causative role in CNS disease by exerting both pro-inflammatory and neurodegenerative effects.
  • Identified fibrinogen as a potential novel target for therapeutic intervention in neuroinflammatory diseases and led to the design of inhibitory peptides that specifically inhibit the damaging proinflammatory effects of fibrinogen in the CNS without affecting its effects in blood coagulation.
  • Showed that removal of fibrin from the CNS via proteolytic degradation is regulated by the neurotrophin receptor p75NTR via a novel signaling pathway whereby p75NTR directly binds the phosphodieserase isoform PDE4A to compartmentalize cAMP signaling in cells.
  • Discovered the novel biological functions for p75NTR as a regulator of liver regeneration and hypoxia.
  • Found that bi-directional molecular mechanisms of communication between the blood and the brain may determine the degree of damage and the regenerative potential of tissues within and outside of the nervous system.

Education

University of Athens (BSc), Biology, First Class Honors (1994)
University of Athens (PhD), Neurobiology (1998)

Affiliations

New York Academy of Sciences
Society for Neuroscience
International Society for Fibrinolysis and Proteolysis
American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics

Awards

  • Human Frontier Science Program fellow (1999)
  • European League Against Rheumatism (1998)
  • International Society for Fibrinolysis and Proteolysis (2000)
  • International Society for Neurochemistry (2002)
  • International Fibrinogen Society (2006)
  • Women in Neuroimmunology Award, International Society of Neuroimmunology (1998)
  • Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), Executive Office of the President of the United States (2007)
  • John J. Abel Award in Pharmacology (2008)
  • Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Biomedical Research, finalist (2009)
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Featured Publications

Katerina Akassoglou, PhDLe Moan N, Houslay DM, Christian F, Houslay MD, Akassoglou K. Oxygen-dependent cleavage of the p75 neurotrophin receptor triggers stabilization of HIF-1a. Mol Cell. 2011 Nov 4; 44(3):476-90. View in: PubMed
Katerina Akassoglou, PhDSchachtrup C, Ryu JK, Helmrick MJ, Vagena E, Galanakis DK, Degen JL, Margolis RU, Akassoglou K. Fibrinogen triggers astrocyte scar formation by promoting the availability of active TGF-beta after vascular damage. J Neurosci. 2010 Apr 28; 30(17):5843-54. View in: PubMed