Katerina Akassoglou and her team have discovered new mechanisms that control the communication between the brain, the immune system, and the vascular system, and designed novel therapies for neurological diseases. Akassoglou’s lab pioneered studies showing that when the blood-brain barrier is disrupted, the blood-clotting factor fibrinogen can leak into the brain, where it induces neurodegeneration. Their findings indicate that fibrinogen leakage could contribute to a wide range of neurological conditions, including multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, traumatic brain injury, and stroke.

Disease Areas

Alzheimer’s Disease
Autoimmune Diseases
Depression
Epilepsy
Multiple Sclerosis
Spinal Cord Injury
Traumatic Brain Injury

Areas of Expertise

Blood-brain Barrier
Coagulation
Disease Models
In Vivo Imaging
Neuroimmunology
Two-photon Microscopy
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Lab Focus

Identifying the functional role of blood-brain barrier disruption in inflammation, neurodegeneration, and repair in neurological diseases.
Searching for new molecular mechanisms that control brain-vascular-immune communication.
Developing new imaging methods for early detection of neuroinflammation and neurovascular alterations in neurological diseases.

Research Impact

Work from Akassoglou’s lab has led to a new way of thinking about neurological diseases by proposing a fundamental mechanism through which cerebrovascular dysfunction impairs the brain and spinal cord. Specifically, they demonstrated that the neurovascular interface is fundamentally changed in neurological disease, often resulting in increased blood-brain barrier permeability that promotes toxic brain inflammation. They identified the blood-clotting factor fibrinogen as a common driver for neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration. They developed the first immunotherapy that blocks the deleterious functions of fibrin and protects from neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration in animal models of multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore, the team’s research has broad impact on the understanding of and ability to treat multiple neurological diseases, including multiple sclerosis, stroke, epilepsy, traumatic brain injury, and spinal cord injury.

Akassoglou’s team continues to investigate the mechanisms at the neurovascular interface that promote neuroinflammation, neurodegeneration, and cognitive decline. They hope to use their discoveries to develop fluid and imaging biomarkers, as well as innovative treatments for devastating neurological diseases.

 

Professional Titles

Senior Investigator, Gladstone Institutes

Director, Gladstone Center for In Vivo Imaging Research

Professor of Neurology, UC San Francisco

Adjunct Professor of Pharmacology, UC San Diego

Bio

Katerina Akassoglou, PhD, is a senior Investigator at Gladstone Institutes and a professor of neurology at UC San Francisco (UCSF). A native of Greece, Akassoglou earned both a bachelor’s of science in biology and a PhD in neuroimmunology at the University of Athens, Greece, and trained in neuropathology with Hans Lassmann at the University of Vienna. She completed her postdoctoral work at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and Rockefeller University with Sidney Strickland, and at New York University with Moses Chao. Prior to joining Gladstone in 2008, Akassoglou was an assistant professor of pharmacology at UC San Diego.

Akassoglou has pioneered studies on the mechanisms that control the communication between the brain, immune and vascular systems—and in particular the role of the blood clotting–factor fibrinogen as a common thread in a wide range of neurologic diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and neurodegenerative diseases. She developed cutting-edge imaging tools to study the neurovascular interface and discovered a novel fibrin-targeting immunotherapy and small molecule compounds to protect the brain from pathogenic neuroinflammation. Akassoglou has led multiple international collaborations between academia and pharma, and has given over 150 lectures nationally and internationally. She is active in several scientific organizations, editorial boards, and funding agencies, has published over 90 papers, and is a named inventor on 16 patents and patent applications. Akassoglou is also the scientific founder of the university spin-out MedaRed.

Akassoglou has received several awards, including the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the US government on outstanding scientists and engineers beginning their independent careers. She has also been presented with the John J. Abel Award, the Dana Foundation for Brain and Immunoimaging Award, the Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise honor, The Marilyn Hilton Award for Innovation in Multiple Sclerosis Research, the R35 Research Program Award by NINDS, and the Barancik Prize for Innovation in MS Research.

How Did You Get Your Start in Science?

“I was inspired by my biology high school teacher. She helped me get a summer internship in an immunology lab and I never looked back.”

Katerina Akassoglou, PhD

Honors and Awards

2019 Barancik Prize for Innovation in Multiple Sclerosis Research, National Multiple Sclerosis Society

2019 Greek Top Women Award

2018 Annals of Neurology Editorial Board

2016 R35 NINDS Research Program Award

2015 The Marilyn Hilton Award for Innovation in MS Research, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation

2015 Secretary/Treasurer, Molecular Pharmacology Division, American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics

2009 Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Biomedical Research (Finalist), Vilcek Foundation

2009 Exceptional Unconventional Research Enabling Knowledge Acceleration Award EUREKA, National Institutes of Health

2008 John J. Abel Award in Pharmacology, American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics

2007 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, The White House

2007 The Dana Award in Brain and Immunoimaging

2006 Young Investigator Award, International Fibrinogen Society

2002 Young Investigator Award, International Society for Neurochemistry

2000 Young Investigator Award, International Society for Fibrinolysis and Proteolysis

1999 Fellow, Human Frontiers Science Program

1998 Women in Neuroimmunology Award, International Society of Neuroimmunology

1998 European League Against Rheumatism

Publications

More Publications

Contact

Katerina Akassoglou

415.734.2512

Karena Essex
Senior Administrative Assistant
415.734.2547


Lab Members

Eric Beattie, PhD
Senior Staff Research Scientist
Nivetha Brathaban, MS
Visiting Researcher
Belinda Cabriga
Senior Research Associate
Terry Dean Jr., MD, PhD
Visiting Scientist
Karuna Dixit, PhD
Postdoctoral Scholar
Fanny Elahi, MD, PhD
Visiting Scientist
Nicole Fernandes, PhD
Visiting Scientist
Andrew Mendiola, PhD
Scientist
Mario Merlini, PhD
Visiting Scientist
Rosa Meza Acevedo
Senior Research Associate
Mark Petersen, MD
Visiting Scientist
Anthony Petraki
Student Intern
Jae Ryu, PhD
Staff Research Scientist III
Renaud Schuck, PhD
Staff Research Scientist I
Elif Sozmen, MD, PhD
Visiting Scientist
Reshmi Tognatta, PhD
Scientist
Zhaoqi Yan, PhD
Postdoctoral Scholar
Yungui Zhou, MS
Senior Research Associate