LaDu Lab

LaDu Lab Mission:

1. INVESTIGATE: the interaction of apoE and Aβ as modulated by universal biological variables for AD (age, APOE, and sex).

2. INNOVATE: predictive biomarkers and novel preclinical drug trials based on the universal biological variables.

3. EDUCATE: inspire the next generation of exceptional scientists and physicians.

Lab Focus

Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease diagnosed post-mortem by the presence of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. Familial AD (early onset ≤ age 65), caused by the overexpression of amyloid-β peptide (Aβ), affects 0.2 million people in the U.S., however, sporadic AD (late onset ≥ age 65) affects 5.6 million people.

While age is the greatest overall risk factor for sporadic AD, the APOE4 gene, encoding the apolipoprotein E4 (apoE4) isoform, is the greatest genetic risk factor for AD, increasing risk up to 15 fold compared to the common APOE3 genotype. APOE4 is associated with increased levels of Aβ, resulting in increased levels of both amyloid plaques and soluble neurotoxic oligomeric Aβ (oAβ). Importantly, female APOE4 carriers have a greater lifetime risk for developing AD, an increased rate of cognitive decline, and an accelerated accumulation of Aβ compared to male APOE4 carriers. Those three risk factors, age, APOE genotype, and sex, are together classified as the universal biological variables for AD. Our lab focuses on the properties and interactions between the two proteins that are linked to AD: Aβ and apoE. Our research on AD is conducted using the novel EFAD transgenic mouse model that expresses human APOE and develops AD-like pathology, which allows for stratification by APOE genotype and sex. Thus, the EFAD mice allow us to assess how the interaction between APOE and Aβ is influenced by the universal biological variables.

Good Luck to the LaDu Lab Alumni UIC Medical Students!

Allison Hansen

Naomi Faulk

Bingtao Xiang

Stazia Loukenas

Congratulations to Dr. Aimee James Karstens on Defending!

Thesis title: Evaluation of plasma lipoprotein profiles in a Mediterranean diet intervention.

Aimee joined the LaDu lab in 2017 as a PhD candidate in Clinical Psychology. During her time as a graduate student at UIC, she was an ADRD T32 Fellow and received the Provost Zeiss Award in 2017 and 2018. Aimee presented at multiple national and international conferences and competitions, including the Society for Neuroscience conference, Experimental Biology conference, and the UIC Graduate College Three-Minute Thesis competition. Over the years, she mentored numerous undergraduate students, helping them each complete their own capstone projects. We are so proud of everything you've accomplished Aimee and know you'll go on to make great contributions to the scientific community!

Congratulations to our 2020 Graduating Seniors!

Sandra Coronel

Husam Naser

Bingtao Xiang

Sandra was an undergraduate research assistant in the LaDu lab from Spring 2018-Spring 2020. She was a student in the Honors College and graduated with a major in biological sciences. During her time at UIC, Sandra was a part of the L@S GANAS Research Fellowship and received multiple Honors College Research and Travel Grants. She presented at the L@s Ganas Research Forum in 2019. Sandra plans to attend pharmacy school in the future. We're so proud of you Sandra!!

Husam (Sam) was an undergraduate research assistant in the LaDu lab from Summer 2018-Spring 2020. He was a student in the Honors College and graduated Summa Cum Laude with a major in biological sciences. Sam received the Chancellor's Undergraduate Research Assistant award in 2018. Sam plans to attend Midwestern University physician assistant's school in the Fall. We're so proud of you Sam!!

Bingtao (Bing) has worked as an undergraduate research assistant in the LaDu lab since Spring 2017. He was a student in the Honors College and graduated with a major in biochemistry. During his time at UIC, Bing was a part of the GPPA Medicine program and received multiple Honors College Research and Travel Grants, as well as placing 2nd in the Chicago Society of Neuroscience Symposium in 2019. He also presented at the Society for Neuroscience Conference in 2019. Bing plans to attend UIC medical school in the Fall. We're so proud of you Bing!!

LaDu Lab Spotlight

Naomi Faulk

Julie Gawenda

LaDu Lab alumnus, Naomi Faulk, has received the UIC College of Medicine Dean's Scholarship, granting her full tuition for four years. The Dean's Scholarship is awarded to 23 incoming medical students each year who have demonstrated an outstanding contribution to the scientific community and model the characteristics of a UIC COM student.

Naomi worked as an undergraduate research assistant in the lab for 4 years. She graduated in 2019 with a major in bioengineering, and continued working in the lab as a research associate for an additional year. Naomi was part of the Honors College and was an Honors College Presidential Scholar. During her time in the lab she won various awards, including the Chancellor's Undergraduate Research Award and the Honors College Research Grant. Naomi also won 1st place in Life Sciences at the UIC Impact and Research Day 2019. WE'RE SO PROUD OF YOU NAOMI!

Current LaDu Lab member, Julie Gawenda, has received the Society of Women Engineers Knowles Scholarship. The Knowles Scholarship is awarded by the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and the Knowles Corporation from the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Engineering to active SWE members who are interested in a future in a STEM career. The Knowles Corporation is comitted to advocating for women in the workplace, especially in the STEM field. They work with UIC to provide workshops and sponsored scholarships for female engineering students. Julie joined SWE in the fall of 2019 and has continued to be a commited and involved member ever since. We can't wait to see what Julie accomplishes in her next three years at UIC. WE'RE SO PROUD OF YOU JULIE!

Recent Publications


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Tai, L.M., Maldonado Weng, J., LaDu, M.J., and Brady, S.T. Relavence of transgenic mouse models for Alzheimer's disease. Progress in Molecular Biology and Translational Science. 2020 Aug. doi: 10.1016/bs.pmbts.2020.07.007.


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Lewandowski, C.T., Maldonado Weng, J., and M.J. LaDu. Alzheimer's disease pathology in ApoE transgenic mouse models: The Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. Neurobiology of Disease. 2020 Feb. doi: 10.1016/j.nbd.2020.104811.


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Maldonado Weng, J., Parikh, I., Naqib, A., York, J., Green, S.J., Estus, S., and M.J. LaDu. Synergistic effects of APOE and sex on the gut microbiome of young EFAD transgenic mice. Molecular Neurodegeneration. 2019 Dec 20;14(1):47. doi: 10.1186/s13024-019-0352-2. PMID: 31861986.

2019 Balu.Karstens.NSL.pdf

<--Click here for access to article.

Balu, D., Karstens, A.J., Loukenas, E., Maldonado Weng, J., York, J., Valencia-Olvera, A.C., and M.J. LaDu. The role of APOE in transgenic mouse models of AD. Neuroscience Letters. 2019 Aug 10;707:134285. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2019.134285. PMID: 31150730.

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