Cell biology of neurological diseases
Shawn Ferguson's long-term research goal is to advance cell biological understanding of neurological disease mechanisms. To this end, the Ferguson Lab focuses significant efforts to understand how the status of lysosomes is sensed and how cells respond to ensure that lysosome function meets ongoing changes in cellular demand. Ferguson's cell biological approach to investigating lysosome function builds on extensive expertise in using light and electron microscopy coupled with biochemical assays, protein-protein interaction analysis, and genetic manipulation of mouse models to successfully investigate problems relating to membrane traffic, organelle biogenesis, and signaling. In recent years, the lab has taken advantage of advances in genome editing tools and the development of protocols for efficient differentiation of human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) into key specialized cell types of the nervous system to move our research into human models for cell biology and neurological disease research. In addition to fundamental cell biology studies into the function of C9orf72 and its binding partners at lysosomes, ongoing neurodegenerative disease projects in the lab address the role of lysosomes in Alzheimer's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and Parkinson's disease. More recently, the identification of human mutations in the MAPK8IP3 (also known as JIP3) gene as the cause of a human neurodevelopmental disorder has intersected with the research group's interest in the role played by the JIP3 protein in lysosome axonal transport. Motivated by the MAPK8IP3/JIP3 human genetics, the Ferguson Lab now seeks to understand the relationship between lysosome axonal transport and brain development.
Ferguson earned bachelor's (1997) and master's (1999) degrees from the University of Ottawa. His doctoral studies in Neuroscience at Vanderbilt University (PhD awarded in 2004) focused on membrane traffic mechanisms that support cholinergic neurotransmission. After postdoctoral research with Pietro De Camilli, he started his lab at Yale in 2010. His love of biology extends into the natural world, where he loves to explore the forests and shorelines of Connecticut.