Team

 

Saul Villeda PhD (Principal Investigator)

I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Anatomy and Endowed Chair in Biomedical Science at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), and serve as Associate Director of the Bakar Aging Research Institute (BARI). I obtained my B.S. degree from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and my PhD degree in Neuroscience from Stanford University. I first joined the UCSF community as a Sandler Faculty Fellow. At heart, I am a biology of aging researcher and a cellular and behavioral neuroscientist interested in how age-related systemic changes in blood can alter the aging process in the adult brain. Outside of lab, I love snuggling with our American Bully dog Avi (a.k.a. Lab Support Specialist) when at home and eating with friends and family when traveling around the world.

Jeremy Shea PhD (Postdoctoral Scholar)

After graduating from Boston College, I worked as a research technician in the laboratory of Stuart Orkin at Dana Farber Cancer Institute. While there, I developed an interest in the roles that the microenvironment plays in maintaining cellular function, specifically stem cell activity. I moved onto UMass Medical School to pursue my graduate studies in the laboratory of Oliver Rando. My thesis focused on how paternal diet influences offspring metabolic phenotypes. My research found that paternal dietary information is transmitted through the gametes with epigenetic influences acting independently of an unappreciated role for rapid genetic variation in controlling offspring metabolism. My previous experiences have instilled in me a fascination for the ways information travels throughout the body, and is influenced by environmental factors. For these reasons, I joined the Villeda lab to investigate the intrinsic and extrinsic factors that affect microglia dysfunction and neuroinflammation during aging.

 

 

Karishma Pratt (Postdoctoral Scholar)

After growing up in the Bay Area, I completed my bachelor’s degree at UC San Diego in Neuroscience and Physiology. While at UCSD, I investigated the molecular mechanisms behind AMPA receptor localization in the laboratory of Dr. Robert Clark. After college, I worked in the lab of Dr. Deepak Srivastava at Gladstone Institutes as a Research Associate. We researched the epigenetic and transcriptional changes that accompany the reprogramming of fibroblasts to cardiomyocytes, otherwise known as direct cardiac reprogramming, and identified small molecules to improve this process. I also assisted in research that investigated the role of transcription factor cooperativity in congenital heart disease. Now in the Villeda lab, I am excited to explore the epigenetic and transcriptional changes that underlie brain aging and rejuvenation, focusing on the role of Tet2. Outside of lab I enjoy Bollywood dancing and hanging out with friends and family!

 

Adam Schroer PhD (Postdoctoral Scholar)

After graduating from Taylor University with a BS in Exercise Science, I completed a MS degree in Exercise Physiology at James Madison University. I next studied at West Virginia University with Dr. David Siderovski, where I received a PhD in Cellular and Integrative Physiology. My research focused on the role of Regulators of G protein Signaling in various physiological and pathological situations. Throughout my studies I maintained a persistent interest in the mechanisms driving aging-related diseases and interventions aimed at extending the healthspan. My current research is aimed at identifying pro-youthful factors underlying the rejuvenating effects of young blood on the aging brain. Outside of lab, I enjoy running marathons.

 

 

Laura Remesal-Gomez PhD (Postdoctoral Scholar) 

I graduated with a B.S. in Biology from the University of Barcelona, Spain. While my time as an undergraduate I had the opportunity to work in the laboratory of Dr. Oliver Hobert at Columbia University, New York, using C.elegans as animal model to study neuronal terminal differentiation. After college, I obtained a M.S. in Neurobiology from the University of Valencia, Spain. I also received my PhD in Neuroscience from the Biomedicine Institute of Valencia – CSIC, Spain, in the laboratory of Dr. Nuria Flames. My thesis focused on understanding the molecular mechanisms necessary for the dopaminergic differentiation both using C.elegans and mouse animal models. Moreover, my research found that the dopaminergic genetic regulatory program is conserved between nematodes and mammals. Since I have always been interested in brain and neurodegeneration, I joined the Villeda lab as a postdoctoral fellow to explore molecular mechanisms underlying neuronal aging and cognitive decline. Outside of lab, I enjoy cooking, traveling and going to the gym to keep mind and body in shape!

Gregor Bieri PhD (Postdoctoral Scholar) 

I grew up in Switzerland, where I completed a Bachelor and Master’s degree in Life Sciences and Technology at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL). During that time, I had a chance to do a one-year long Master’s project in the laboratory of Dr. Tony Wyss-Coray at Stanford. I stayed in the Bay Area and pursued my PhD in Neurosciences in the Lab of Dr Aaron Gitler at Stanford. For my graduate thesis, I investigated the interactions between Parkinson’s risk factors and their effect on the prion-like spreading of alpha-synuclein. I joined the Villeda lab in 2020, where my work is focused on the exercise-induced liver factor Gpld1 and its role in transferring the benefits of exercise on the brain in aging and neurodegeneration. Outside of research, I really enjoy cooking, gardening and discovering the next bingeworthy TV show.

 

 

Juliana Sucharov Costa (Graduate Student, BMS Program)

I am originally from Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, but grew up in Colorado. There, I attended the University of Colorado, Boulder and received BAs in Molecular, Cellular, Developmental Biology and Neuroscience. As an undergrad, I investigated factors in the serum of pediatric heart failure patients in the lab of Dr. Shelley Miyamoto. After graduation, I worked as a technician in Dr. Jamie Nichols lab where I studied developmental variation after deleterious mutations in the craniofacial skeleton of zebrafish. I have always been interested in studying the interactions between the immune and nervous systems, and in the Villeda lab I am excited to study the role of the immune system in age-related cognitive decline. Outside of lab I like to hike with my dog, climb, ski, and hang out with friends.

Rhea Misra (Graduate Student, BMS Program)

Originally from Southern California, I attended UC Berkeley where I received my BA in Molecular and cell biology with an emphasis in Neurobiology. While at Berkeley, I investigated how myelination mediates depressive and anxious-like behaviors in early life stress in the laboratory of Dr. Daniela Kaufer. After completing my undergraduate education, I became manager of the laboratory of Dr. Kaoru Saijo where I researched the cellular mechanisms that regulate microglia and astrocytes during neurodevelopment. In the Villeda Lab, I am interested in how systemic interventions can rejuvenate the aging brain. Outside of lab, I enjoy going concerts, watching standup comedy, and cooking. 

 

 

Turan Aghayev MD, PhD (Postdoctoral Scholar)

I graduated from Pirogov Russian National Research Medical University, Moscow. After getting my MD, I joined Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia where I was focused on the role of inflammatory mechanisms in the regulation of abdominal aortic aneurism as well as hepatocellular carcinoma. Specifically, we were interested to elucidate the role of cytokine biology and revealed novel impacts of it on normal hematopoiesis and immune cells in these diseases. I also contributed to the studies of the role of microbiota and inflammation in atherosclerosis, transcriptional biology and unfolded protein response in acute myeloid leukemia. Now in the Villeda lab I am excited to study the mechanisms underlying the rejuvenating effects of exercise focusing on the role of the liver-to-brain axis. Outside of lab, I enjoy biking, swimming and hanging out with friends.

Amber Philp PhD (Postdoctoral Scholar)

I grew up in Tauranga, New Zealand, but at the age of 16 moved to Valdivia, Chile where I completed my undergraduate in Biochemistry at the Universidad Austral de Chile. I did my undergraduate thesis and worked as a research assistant in the laboratory of Dr Carlos Flores at the Centro de Estudios Cientificos, looking into the role of the ion channel KCa3.1 in asthma and cystic fibrosis. I then enrolled in a PhD in Medical Science at the Universidad Austral de Chile in the laboratory of Dr Francisco Rivera, where I studied the role of platelets in Remyelination. During this time, I collaborated with and spent two years developing my thesis in the labs of Dr Robin Franklin and Dr Cedric Ghevaert at the University of Cambridge. I joined the Villeda lab in 2022 as a postdoctoral researcher to pursue my interests in the immune system, the aging brain, and neurodegeneration. Outside of the lab I enjoy trail running and travelling.

 

 

Mason Phan (PROPEL Student)

I received my Bachelor’s of Arts in Molecular and Cell Biology with an emphasis in Neurobiology from the University of California, Berkeley. Currently, I am working in the Villeda Lab as a PROPEL scholar. In the Villeda lab, I study the molecular mechanisms behind age-related cognitive decline, focusing on the molecular changes present in neurons and microglia. Outside of lab, I enjoy cooking, lion dancing, playing chess, and going to concerts.

 

 

Shanan Sahota (PROPEL Student) 

I completed my undergraduate studies at San Fransico State University and received my B.S. in Cell and Molecular Biology. During my studies, I investigated the prevalence of a fungal pathogen, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) in amphibians in the San Fransico area with Andres Patino-Lopez from the Vredenburg lab. Upon graduation, I was welcomed into the Villeda lab as a PROPEL student. I am eager to identify molecular mechanisms underlying the pro-aging effects of old blood and the pro-youthful effects of young blood on the aged brain particularly on immune-related blood factors. Outside of the lab, I enjoy exploring the coast with my dog, Champ, and spending time with my family.

 

Zach Holmes (Graduate Student, BMS Program)

I am originally from Northern California, but I spent time at UC San Diego where I received my M.S. & B.S. in Biology & Molecular Biology respectively. While in San Diego, I investigated the role of tyrosine phosphatases in disease while working in the lab of Dr. Nunzio Bottini & Dr. Stephanie Stanford. I’m very excited to be back in Northern California, and during my time in the Villeda lab I am looking forward to investigating metabolic drivers of age-related cognitive decline. In my free time, I love cooking, listening to music, and playing all kinds of games with friends.

 

 

 

Yasuhiro Fuseya MD, PhD (Postdoctoral Scholar)

I was born and raised in Japan. I received my M.D. from Kyoto University and worked as a neurologist for several years. To get basic research training, I entered the Graduate School of Medicine at Kyoto University and was involved in the analysis of the regulatory mechanism of LUBAC ubiquitin ligase, which is an important factor in the activation of immune cells. I discovered the brand-new regulation of LUBAC, and I received my Ph.D. from Kyoto University in 2020. In addition, I found that hyperactivation of LUBAC is involved in the pathogenesis of human autoimmune diseases.  To investigate new therapeutic agents for age-related neurodegenerative disorders,  I joined the Villeda lab in May 2024 where I am interested in investigating mechanisms of cellular aging in brain border regions. Outside of the lab, I enjoy walking around SF, watching movies, and playing with my kids.

 

Arianna Doss (Administrative Officer)

I graduated from San Francisco State University with a B.S. in Public Health. I joined the Villeda Lab in 2023 as a Faculty Assistant for the UCSF Bakar Aging Research Institute (BARI). Outside of the lab I enjoy cooking, reading and finding new ways to stay active.

 

Avi Villieri (Lab Support Specialist) 

I was adopted by the Villeda team after getting all fixed up at the UC Davis fracture program. Since then I continued my educational training through Marin Humane. My current research is aimed at improving the general wellbeing of all my teammates. Outside of lab, I enjoy endless treats, belly rubs, and car rides. 

 

Alumni

Postdoctoral Scholars

  • Jill Bouchard PhD, 2012-2014, Current Position: Assistant Professor, Los Medanos College
  • Henry Garcia PhD, 2014-2016, Current Position: Scientist, Oisin Biotechnologies
  • Xuelai (Shelly) Fan PhD, 2015-2017, Current Position: Science Writer, AAAS
  • Patrick (Brit) Ventura PhD, 2016-2018, Current Position: Scientist, Unity Biotechnology 
  • Geraldine Gontier PhD, 2014-2020, Current Position: Scientist, Unity Biotechnology

 

Doctoral Students

  • Joe Udeochu PhD, 2013-2017 BMS Program, Current Position, Postdoctoral Scholar Cornell Medical School
  • Elizabeth Wheatley PhD, 2013-2018 DSCB Program, Current Position: Postdoctoral Scholar University of Colorado Denver
  • Karin Lin PhD, 2013-2018 Neuroscience Program, Current Position: Postdoctoral Scholar Denali Therapeutics
  • Charles White 3rd PhD, 2015-2020 DSCB Program, Current Position: Life Sciences Consultant, Putnam Associates
  • Lucas Smith PhD, 2015-2020 BMS Program, Current Position: Associate Editor, PLOS Biology 
  • Alana Horowitz PhD, 2016-2020 BMS Program, Current Position: Consultant, McKinsey & Co. 

 

Master's Students

  • Kristopher Plambeck MS, 2012-2014 SF State University, Current Position: Doctoral Student, UC Davis
  • Cedric Snethlage MS, 2014-2015 SF State University, Current Position: Doctoral Student, UC San Diego