Dr. Chen’s research interests focus on understanding the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. He uses the Drosophila, fruit fly, as a model to study the mechanisms underlying central nervous system malfunction in humans.
By expressing pathological human genes in the fly, he can generate abnormal phenotypes, such as slowed motor activity or degeneration of the retina. These phenotypes can then be used in conjunction with the rich genetic toolbox that Drosophila researchers have developed to identify pathways that contribute to this degeneration. Their small size, rapid generation time, and low costs for maintenance make fruit flies ideal for studying neurodegenerative disease. The Drosophila models provide a platform for genome-wide screens and unbiased genetic screens to identify components of pathological pathways.
- Chen L, Feany MB. “Alpha-synuclein phosphorylation controls neurotoxicity and inclusion formation in a Drosophila model of Parkinson disease.” Nat Neurosci. 2005. 8(5):657-63.
- Chen L, Periquet M, Wang X, Negro A, McLean PJ, Hyman BT, Feany MB. “Tyrosine and serine phosphorylation of alpha-synuclein have opposing effects on neurotoxicity and soluble oligomer formation.” J Clin Invest. 2009. 119(11):3257-65.