Assistant Member, Research Institute
Assistant Professor of Neurology, Academic Institute
Weill Cornell Medical College
Dr. Chung is an accomplished scientist and academic specializing in genetics and neurology. Currently serving as an Assistant Professor of Genetics at the Department of Neurology at Houston Methodist Research Institute, he also holds the position of Director of the Drosophila functional core at Houston Methodist.
During his Ph.D. studies at KAIST (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology), Dr. Chung focused on investigating the mechanisms of action of the tumor suppressor gene Schip1 within the context of the Hippo signaling pathway. This research likely involved examining the role of Schip1 in regulating cell growth, proliferation, and apoptosis, as the Hippo pathway is known to play a crucial role in these processes.
Following his PhD, Dr. Chung pursued postdoctoral training at Baylor College of Medicine. During this time, he shifted his research focus to using the fruit fly (Drosophila) as a model organism to study both rare and common neurological diseases affecting humans. The fruit fly model offers several advantages, including its well-characterized genetic toolkit, short lifespan, and conserved biological pathways, making it a valuable system for studying human diseases.
In recognition of his outstanding contributions to the field of genetics and neurology, Dr. Chung was honored as a Warren Alpert Foundation Distinguished Scholar in 2022. This prestigious award highlights his significant achievements and potential for further groundbreaking research.
Furthermore, Dr. Chung serves as a scientific advisor for the Mitchell & Friends Foundation, a role in which he provides expertise and guidance on scientific matters related to Mitchell Syndrome research.
Dr. Chung's ultimate goal is to advance therapeutic approaches for both rare and common neurodegenerative diseases by leveraging the fruit fly model. By studying the underlying genetic and molecular mechanisms of these diseases in flies, he aims to identify potential therapeutic targets and develop novel treatment strategies. This work has the potential to open new avenues for understanding and treating neurodegeneration, ultimately benefiting patients with these debilitating conditions.
Dr. Chung's long-term career focus is to explore the role of lipids in non-neuronal cells and their contribution to neurodegeneration, with a particular emphasis on neuroinflammation. Currently, he is investigating the importance of preserving sphingolipids balance within the nervous system, a key element in preventing neurodegeneration and synaptic dysfunction.
His recent studies on Drosophila have revealed the combined effect of increased levels of Ceramides and sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) in glia and hemocytes (fly immune cells). These increased levels trigger the activation of the NF-?B pathway within the nervous system, an event that precedes cell death. Dr. Chung is keen to further explore these lipids within glia and hemocytes, hoping to uncover the molecular mechanisms behind various neurodegenerative diseases.
Additionally, Dr. Chung plans to identify other genes involved in lipid metabolism that play a role in human neurological diseases. Using flies for initial variant assessments, he aims to uncover lipid metabolic genes not yet associated with human disease. His strategy includes collaborations within the Houton Methodist and networking platforms such as GeneMatcher and ModelMatcher. His methods encompass several fly-based strategies to evaluate variant function and gain a deeper understanding of these genes, including humanization strategies facilitated by CRISPR-Cas9.
High-priority genes without existing mouse models will be targeted for mouse knockout generation and phenotyping, and human cells will be used to confirm findings when possible and appropriate.