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The UNC departments of Neurology and Cell Biology & Physiology look forward to welcoming Dr. Shahzad Khan as an Assistant Professor of Cell Biology & Physiology, with a secondary appointment in the Department of Neurology.   

Dr. Khan obtained his Ph.D. in Neuroscience at the University of Virginia, under the mentorship of George Bloom, Ph.D. In Dr. Bloom’s lab, Dr. Khan investigated how small clumps of proteins called oligomers initiate cellular dysfunction in Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Dr. Khan went on to complete his post-doctorate work with Dr. Suzanne Pfeffer, at Stanford Medicine, where his research focused on inherited forms of Parkinson’s disease. At Stanford, Dr. Khan explored how the brain is impacted by genetic mutations in the LRRK2 kinase. His research has shown that LRRK2 mutations cause neurons and astrocytes to lose their primary cilia (sensory organelles that protrude from the plasma membrane of cells).  Primary cilia loss impairs the ability of neural cells to sense and respond to signals that control neuronal survival.

Intriguingly, primary cilia dysfunction is a prominent feature of several other neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease.  However, the mechanisms and functional effects of primary cilia dysfunction in these diseases are poorly understood. Dr. Khan’s research program at UNC Chapel Hill will utilize cutting-edge approaches to identify the causes and consequences of primary cilia dysfunction in neurodegenerative diseases. His future work aims to expand our knowledge of neural signaling and to uncover novel targets for disease intervention.

Dr. Khan’s appointment at UNC-CH will bring a multidisciplinary approach to research in neurodegenerative diseases and support collaborations between basic and clinical departments. By supporting one another, Neurology and Cell Biology & Physiology hope to bring advanced research and scholarship to all of North Carolina’s citizens.