Lab Team & Mission

"To learn is not to know; there are the learners and the learned. Memory makes the one, philosophy the others."

Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo

Lab Mission

In the Ebbert lab, our purpose and mission are to meaningfully impact human health and disease, where we are primarily focused on Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative diseases, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD). Part of this mission also includes a better understanding of overall genetics and genomics. We are only beginning to understand the roles every gene in the human genome play, which is complicated by the number of distinct RNA isoforms, and therefore, the number of distinct protein isoforms every individual gene encodes.

For example, the top genes implicated in Alzheimer's disease encode an average of ~12 isoforms. To truly understand human health and disease, we need to understand the function of these individual isoforms.

We also aim to train and help aspiring scientists accomplish their life & career goals. We’re looking for individuals (technicians, students, postdocs) who are genuinely excited and motivated by the prospect of improving human health and disease.

Our approach and specific long-term aims

Image 1
Help develop a meaningful disease treatment.

The idea is simple: we need treatments that will stop or prevent neurodegenerative diseases like ALS, FTD, and Alzheimer’s disease. Developing these treatments has clearly proven challenging. This is largely because we’re not trying to kill an infection like bacteria or virus, or to kill diseased cells like cancers; we’re trying to keep cells happy and healthy—that’s an entirely different story and a big challenge. We want to make our contribution to developing meaningful disease treatments for ALS, FTD, and Alzheimer’s disease by first identifying precise mechanisms driving disease that will make it possible to know how to treat it. These mechanisms are still largely unknown or poorly understood.

Image 3
Help develop pre-symptomatic disease diagnostics.

We hear a lot about how badly we need a meaningful treatment for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and ALS. It’s true. We absolutely do. What I don’t hear researchers talk about is how important a pre-symptomatic disease diagnostic is for neurodegenerative diseases. A diagnostic test is critical to treating many diseases. Generally speaking, the sooner you can properly identify a disease, to better outcome the patient will have (if there’s a meaningful treatment). For many diseases, the amazing body will heal itself once the threat is removed (e.g., infection or cancers). You cannot heal from a neurodegenerative disease, however; once symptoms have onset, it’s too late. We need pre-symptomatic disease diagnostics to detect neurodegenerative diseases (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease) before symptoms onset.

Image 2
Help understand how environmental factors affect disease.

Nature or nurture? Genetics or environment? However you phrase it, the question has been around a long time. What is actually causing disease? The truth is that it’s probably both for complex diseases like ALS, FTD, and Alzheimer’s diseases. There are many possible environment factors that could affect a disease’s onset, severity, or duration, including diet, exercise, trauma, chemical exposures, etc. For example, why is there higher incidence of ALS among military veterans? We cannot fully understand disease if we don’t understand how the environment is involved.

Lab Team

Lab Leadership
Mark T. W. Ebbert, Ph.D.
Principal Investigator (PI)
Dr. Mark Ebbert joined the University of Kentucky's Sanders-Brown Center on Aging from the Mayo Clinic in 2020. He studies neurodegenerative diseases using cutting-edge sequencing technologies and computational approaches such as computational biology and bioinformatics.

Justin B. Miller, Ph.D
Assistant Professor
Dr. Miller's background in phylogenetics gives him a unique perspective on the evolutionary history of complex diseases, which enables him to explore novel bioinformatics and machine learning approaches that he hopes will lead to improved therapeutics and diagnostics.

Ja Brandon, Ph.D
Scientist III
Dr. Ja Brandon received his PhD from the School of Forensic Science, University of Central Lancashire in England. He has been at the University of Kentucky since 2001 with a background in molecular biology, immunology and neurogenitive disease.

Graduate Students & Post Docs
Sabrina Krause
Ph.D. Student
Sabrina received her B.A. in Cellular and Molecular Biology from DePauw University. She has a passion for neuroscience and aims to improve our understanding of neurodegenerative diseases.

Other trainees
Erik Huckvale
Bioinformatics Technician
Erik Huckvale received his B.S. in Computer Science with an emphasis in Bioinformatics. He's interested in applying computational methods including machine learning to investigate neurodegenerative diseases.
Bernardo Aguzzoli Heberle
Bioinformatics Technician
Bernardo Aguzzoli Heberle received his B.S. in Neuroscience from the University of Kentucky. He aims to help inform more effective treatments for neurodegenerative diseases by combining computational biology and genomic approaches. Outside the lab he enjoys playing basketball and going to bar trivia with friends.
Madeline (Maddy) Page
Bioinformatics Technician
Maddy graduated from Brigham Young University with a B.S. in Bioinformatics and minors in Computer Science, Math, and Business Management. She has a deep desire to learn and to better understand human diseases. Outside of research, Maddy likes to stay active through playing soccer and dancing.
Matt Hodgman
Bioinformatics Technician
Matt is pursuing a B.S. in Bioinformatics with a minor in Computer Science from Brigham Young University. He aspires to leverage machine learning and other techniques to improve disease diagnosis and treatment. When not in the lab, Matt enjoys mountain biking and snowboarding.
Elizabeth (Liz) Vance
Bioinformatics Technician
Liz received her B.S. in Bioinformatics with a minor in Computer Science from Brigham Young University. Her grandmother’s suffering with Alzheimer’s disease inspired her to use computational biology to better understand the genetic architecture of this and other neurodegenerative diseases.
Kayla Nations
Technician
Kayla received her B.A. in psychology from the University of Louisville. Her goal is to obtain her doctorate in neuropsychology in the hopes to help those with neurodegenerative diseases live the best life they can.