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Sonia Villapol, PhD

Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery, Academic Institute
Assistant Member, Research Institute
Houston Methodist
Weill Cornell Medical College



Dr. Villapol graduated from the University of Santiago of Compostela, Spain in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology. She received her Master´s degree and Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain in 2007. She worked as a postdoctoral fellow at CNRS in the University Pierre and Marie Curie VI and at INSERM in Paris, France (2007-2010); and at National Institute of Health (NIH) and Center for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine at Uniformed Services University (USUHS) in Bethesda, MD (2010-2014). Following her postdoctoral research work, Dr. Villapol joined the Department of Neuroscience at Georgetown University (Washington, D.C.) as a Research Assistant Professor in May 2014. In July 2018, she started as an Assistant Professor to the Center for Neuroregeneration at Houston Methodist Research Institute. Dr. Villapol has received extramural research funding as Principal Investigator from NIH, and she serves as an Associate Editor for Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology (Springer Journal), and Review Editor for Frontiers in Neurotrauma. She has published over 40 articles in peer reviewer journals and book chapters. 

Description of Research

Dr. Villapol´s research interests have been mainly focused on elucidating the mechanisms of neurodegeneration, neuroinflammation or neurogenesis via several models of brain injury (traumatic brain injury or cerebral ischemia), and how inflammatory mediators connect the brain with the periphery.

Villapol lab focus is the pursuit of novel neurorestorative treatments for debilitating brain injuries to open the door to alternative therapies that repair and recovery in the damaged brain through the periphery.


Research Interests:

  • Cerebral ischemia and traumatic brain injury
  • Neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration
  • Sex and gender differences in response to brain damage
  • Brain-Liver axis ~ Brain-gut-microbiome axis ~ Brain-Periphery axis
  • Glia activation
  • Neuroprotection and Neurorestoration


Research Methods:

  • Animal models of brain injury
  • Immunohistochemistry and microscopy analysis
  • Protein analysis
  • DNA and RNA purification
  • Sequence analysis


Areas Of Expertise

Stroke Inflammation Microbiome Immune activation Cerebral blood flow (CBF) Traumatic brain injury (TBI) Microglia Ischemia Apoptosis
Education & Training

PhD, Autonomous University of Barcelona

Serum Amyloid A is Expressed in the Brain After Traumatic Brain Injury in a Sex-Dependent Manner
Soriano, S, Moffet, B, Wicker, E & Villapol, S 2020, , Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology, vol. 40, no. 7, pp. 1199-1211.

Hidden genomic diversity of SARS-CoV-2: implications for qRT-PCR diagnostics and transmission
Sapoval, N, Mahmoud, M, Jochum, MD, Liu, Y, Leo Elworth, RA, Wang, Q, Albin, D, Ogilvie, H, Lee, MD, Villapol, S, Hernandez, KM, Berry, IM, Foox, J, Beheshti, A, Ternus, K, Aagaard, KM, Posada, D, Mason, CE, Sedlazeck, F & Treangen, TJ 2020, , bioRxiv.

Gastrointestinal symptoms associated with COVID-19: impact on the gut microbiome
Villapol, S 2020, , Translational Research, vol. 226, pp. 57-69.,

Gastrointestinal symptoms associated with COVID-19: impact on the gut microbiome
Villapol, S 2020, , Translational Research, vol. 226, pp. 57-69.

Early sex differences in the immune-inflammatory responses to neonatal ischemic stroke
Villapol, S, Faivre, V, Joshi, P, Moretti, R, Besson, VC & Charriaut-Marlangue, C 2019, , International journal of molecular sciences, vol. 20, no. 15, 3809.

Sexual dimorphism in the inflammatory response to traumatic brain injury.
Villapol, S 2019, National Neurotrauma Society Annual Meeting. 6/30/19 - 7/3/19, .

Serum Amyloid A Protein as a Potential Biomarker for Severity and Acute Outcome in Traumatic Brain Injury
Wicker, E, Benton, L, George, K, Furlow, W & Villapol, S 2019, , BioMed Research International, vol. 2019, 5967816.

Traumatic brain injury in mice induces acute bacterial dysbiosis within the fecal microbiome
Treangen, TJ, Wagner, J, Burns, MP & Villapol, S 2018, , Frontiers in immunology, vol. 9, no. NOV, 2757, pp. 2757.

Apolipoprotein E4 impairs spontaneous blood brain barrier repair following traumatic brain injury
Main, BS, Villapol, S, Sloley, SS, Barton, DJ, Parsadanian, M, Agbaegbu, C, Stefos, K, McCann, MS, Washington, PM, Rodriguez, OC & Burns, MP 2018, , Molecular Neurodegeneration, vol. 13, no. 1, 17, pp. 17.

Glial- and neuronal-specific expression of CCL5 mRNA in the rat brain
Lanfranco, MF, Mocchetti, I, Burns, MP & Villapol, S 2018, , Frontiers in Neuroanatomy, vol. 11, 137, pp. 137.

Proteolytic Remodeling of Perineuronal Nets: Effects on Synaptic Plasticity and Neuronal Population Dynamics
Lorenzo Bozzelli, P, Alaiyed, S, Kim, E, Villapol, S & Conant, K 2018, , Neural Plasticity, vol. 2018, 5735789, pp. 5735789.

Polypathology and Dementia After Brain Trauma: Does Brain Injury Trigger Distinct Neurodegenerative Diseases, or Should They be Classified Together as Traumatic Encephalopathy
Washington, PM, Villapol, S & Burns, MP 2018, . in J Victoroff & E Bigler (eds), Concussion and Traumatic Encephalopathy. Cambridge University Press, pp. 573-582.

Roles of Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptor Gamma on Brain and Peripheral Inflammation
Villapol, S 2018, , Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology, vol. 38, no. 1, pp. 121-132.

Temporal changes in cortical and hippocampal expression of genes important for brain glucose metabolism following controlled cortical impact injury in mice
Zhou, J, Burns, MP, Huynh, L, Villapol, S, Taub, DD, Saavedra, JM & Blackman, MR 2017, , Frontiers in Endocrinology, vol. 8, pp. 231.

Sexual dimorphism in the inflammatory response to traumatic brain injury
Villapol, S, Loane, DJ & Burns, MP 2017, , GLIA, vol. 65, no. 9, pp. 1423-1438.

A mouse model of single and repetitive mild traumatic brain injury
Main, BS, Sloley, SS, Villapol, S, Zapple, DN & Burns, MP 2017, , Journal of Visualized Experiments, vol. 2017, no. 124, e55713.

NOX2 deficiency alters macrophage phenotype through an IL-10/STAT3 dependent mechanism: Implications for traumatic brain injury
Barrett, JP, Henry, RJ, Villapol, S, Stoica, BA, Kumar, A, Burns, MP, Faden, AI & Loane, DJ 2017, , Journal of Neuroinflammation, vol. 14, no. 1, 65.

Reduced cortical excitatory synapse number in APOE4 mice is associated with increased calcineurin activity
Neustadtl, AL, Winston, CN, Parsadanian, M, Main, BS, Villapol, S & Burns, MP 2017, , NeuroReport, vol. 28, no. 10, pp. 618-624.

Protease induced plasticity: Matrix metalloproteinase-1 promotes neurostructural changes through activation of protease activated receptor 1
Allen, M, Ghosh, S, Ahern, GP, Villapol, S, Maguire-Zeiss, KA & Conant, K 2016, , Scientific Reports, vol. 6, 35497.

Dendritic spine loss and chronic white matter inflammation in a mouse model of highly repetitive head trauma
Winston, CN, Noël, A, Neustadtl, A, Parsadanian, M, Barton, DJ, Chellappa, D, Wilkins, TE, Alikhani, AD, Zapple, DN, Villapol, S, Planel, E & Burns, MP 2016, , American Journal of Pathology, vol. 186, no. 3, pp. 552-567.