Research Team

Stanley H. Appel, MD, Lab Director
Stanley H. Appel, M.D. is the Peggy and Gary Edwards Distinguished Endowed Chair for the Treatment and Research of ALS, Department of Neurology, Neurological Institute, Houston Methodist Hospital and Professor of Neurology at Weill Medical College of Cornell University. He was previously Chair of the Department of Neurology at Baylor College of Medicine as well as Chief of the Neurology division and the James B. Duke Professor of Medicine at Duke University Medical Center, North Carolina. Dr. Appel is a native of Massachusetts and received his Bachelor Degree at Harvard University and his Medical Degree from Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons. He is Director of the MDA/ALS Research and Clinical Center at the Methodist Neurological Institute, and past Director of a National Institute of Aging Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.

Research Interests

  • Neurodegenerative diseases
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
  • Neuromuscular disorders

 

David R. Beers, PhD, Neuroscientist
Dr. David Beers’ research interests include the underlying mechanisms of neuroinflammation that contributes to neuron death in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and other neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD), and their relevant neuroprotective therapeutic targets. Current research efforts aim to understand the roles of microglia/monocytes and T lymphocytes on immune-mediated injury and repair in ALS and AD. Dr. Beers is investigating the neuroprotective potential of regulatory T lymphocytes as new cellular therapeutic options for ALS patients.  He is also interested in the pathology of various mutant proteins as well as abnormal peptides, and how they affect interactions among neurons, microglia, and T lymphocytes in neurodegenerative diseases.  Dr. Beers is Chairman if the Houston Methodist Hospital Research Institute’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), and is dedicated to the ethical treatment of research animals and the proper training of all investigators using animals in their research at the Houston Methodist Hospital Research Institute. Dr. Beers is a member of several professional societies, and is the author of a number published books and many peer reviewed manuscripts on topics such as ALS.

Research Interests

  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Neuroprotection
  • Neuroinflammation
  • Neurotoxicity

 

Jason R. Thonhoff, MD, PhD, Neurologist and Neuroscientist
Dr. Jason Thonhoff is a physician-scientist with expertise in neuromuscular diseases. His research focuses on the role of regulatory T cells (Tregs) in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The loss of Treg function is associated with acceleration of disease progression in ALS.  Dr. Thonhoff is exploring the mechanisms through which Treg function is lost in ALS and potential therapies aimed to enhance the neuroprotective function of Tregs. He is also investigating the use of autologous Treg infusions as a therapy for patients with ALS. In addition, he is involved in several clinical trials investigating novel treatments for patients with spinal muscular atrophy, myasthenia gravis, myotonic dystrophy and CIDP.

Research Interests

  • Neuromuscular disorders
  • Neurodegenerative diseases
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Myasthenia Gravis
  • Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (CIDP)
  • Muscular Dystrophy

 

Aaron D. Thome, PhD, Neuroscientist
Dr. Aaron Thome studied neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration at the Center for Neurodegeneration and Experimental Therapeutics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship under Stanley H. Appel, MD at the Houston Methodist Neurological Institute. He currently serves as an Assistant Research Professor of Neurology in the Stanley H. Appel Department of Neurology and Houston Methodist Research Institute. His current research involves elucidating the underlying neuroinflammatory mechanisms in neurodegenerative disease, specifically in Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. His research utilizes clinical samples and pre-clinical models of disease to identify stage-specific immune changes in neurodegeneration and to develop translational therapeutics for immune modulation to prevent disease progression.

Research Interests

  • Neuroinflammation
  • Neurodegenerative disease
  • Alzheimer’s disease

 

Weihua Zhao, MD, PhD, Neuroscientist
Dr. Weihua Zhao is interested in the underlying mechanisms of neuroinflammation on motor neuron death and relevant therapeutic targets. Current research efforts aim to understand the roles of microglia/monocytes and T-cells on immune-mediated injury and repair in ALS. Dr. Zhao is investigating the neuroprotective potential of regulatory immune cells as new therapeutic options for ALS. Gene mutations on SOD1, TDP-43, and C9ORF72 have been linked to ALS. Dr. Zhao is also interested in the pathology of various mutant proteins as well as abnormal peptides, and how they affect interactions among motor neurons, microglia, and T-cells in ALS.

Research Interests

  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Neuroprotection
  • Neuroinflammation
  • Neurotoxicity

 

Research Assistants

  • Douglas Casey, BS
  • Hui Xuan
  • Jinghong Wang
  • Shixiang Wen, BS
  • Rangarajan Sreenivasan
  • Aiping Gao
  • David Vo