Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Center for Genetic Medicine

Yongchao  Ma, PhD

Yongchao Ma, PhD

Assistant Professor of Pediatrics (Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics), Neurology - Ken and Ruth Davee Department and Physiology



Stanley Manne Children’s Research Institute Box 204
225 East Chicago Avenue
Chicago IL 60611

ma( at )

Education/Research Website

Education and Certification

PhD: Weill Medical College of Cornell University (2001)


Description of Interests

Regulation of Motor Neuron and Dopaminergic Neuron Function in Development and Disease -------- Spinal Motor Neurons and Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA): SMA is characterized by the selective degeneration of spinal motor neurons. As the leading genetic cause of infant mortality, SMA affects one in every eight thousand live births. Our group is interested in studying mechanism regulating motor neuron development and function, as well as why motor neurons specifically degenerate in SMA. To address these questions, we use a combination of genetic, biochemical and cell biological approaches, and utilize genetically modified mice, induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells reprogrammed from fibroblasts, and zebrafish as model systems. We focus on the regulation of mitochondrial functions in SMA pathogenesis. Based on our findings, we hope to develop new therapeutic strategies for treating SMA. -------- Dopaminergic Neurons and Parkinson's Disease: Dopaminergic neurons located in the ventral midbrain control movement, emotional behavior and reward mechanisms. Dysfunction of these neurons is implicated in Parkinson’s disease, drug addiction, depression and schizophrenia. Our group is interested in the genetic and epigenetic mechanisms regulating dopaminergic neuron functions in disease and aging conditions. We are particularly interested in how aging and mitochondrial oxidative stress contribute to dopaminergic neuron degeneration in Parkinson's disease through transcriptional and epigenetic regulations. We use mouse models, cultured neurons and iPS cells for these studies.

Interests (Keywords)

Aging; Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis; Developmental Neurobiology; Neurogenetics; Parkinson’s disease; Spinal Muscular Atrophy

Research and Publications

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