Dagda Lab

The Dagda Lab is a mitochondrial biology-oriented research group located at the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine that currently spearheads basic and translational research projects supported by the NIH, philanthropic support and state funding.

These projects include:

Parkinson's disease

  • Investigate how PTEN-induced Kinase 1 (PINK1) interacts with Protein Kinase A to regulate mitochondrial function, dynamics, neuronal survival and development.
  • Investigate the pathological effects of of acute and chronic psychological stress on brain energy production, motor function and neuronal survival in Parkinson's disease rats (PINK1 knockout rats).
  • Investigate the ability of different nootropic agents to reverse neurodegeneration and motor symptoms in Parkinsonian rats.

Alzheimer's disease

  • Investigate the ability of enhancing neurotrophic and PKA activity in reversing beta amyloid aggregation and neurodegeneration in cell culture and mouse models of Alzheimer's disease.
  • Identify new biomarkers of Alzheimer's disease in fecal matter from Alzheimer's disease patients.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

  • Investigate the pathological mechanisms by which ALS-associated mutants of TDP43 affect mitochondrial structure and mitophagy in cortical neurons.

Immunofluorescence image shows a representative microscopic field of a dopamine neuron (stained with a tyrosine hydroxylase specific antibody, green) embedded with non-dopamine neurons (stained for the dendrite marker MAP2B).

Immunofluorescence image showing how neurons (identified by MAP2B specific antibodies, red) are interconnected with glia (green).

Immunofluorescence image showing PSD95 (a synaptic marker in green) localized on dendrites of neurons (identified by MAP2B specific antibodies, red).

The Dagda Lab consists of 1200 square feet of wet lab space located in Howard Medical Sciences room 148. It is equipped with high speed temperature controlled centrifuges, an EVOS-FL microscope, an EVOS-CORE microscope, a tissue culture facility, a Seahorse Biosciences XFe24 Extracellular Flux Analyzer for measuring metabolic activities of live cells, touch-screen PCR machines, a SpectraMax M4 Multimode 96 well plate reader, Western blot equipment, immunohistochemistry equipment and two 1300A2 laminar flow hoods located in the cell culture facility. The Dagda lab is located close to the Nevada Proteomics Center, the Electron Microscopy Center and the COBRE-supported confocal microscopy suite in Howard Building. The Dagda Lab supports the research projects of five undergraduate students, two doctoral students (Neuroscience, Cellular Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology, and Cell Molecular Biology programs), two postdoctoral associates, an international research scholar, and a lab manager.

Current Lab Members

  • Smijin K. Soman, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Associate
  • Raul Dagda, M.S., Laboratory Manager
  • Bridget Martinez, first year medical UNR Med/Renown resident
  • Micah Woodruff, undergraduate neuroscience student
  • Anirudh Praveen, undergraduate student

Recent Publications

  • Swain, M., Dagda, R.Y., Soman, S., Tapia, K., Dagda, RK.K. Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor protects neurons by stimulating mitochondrial function through Protein Kinase A, 2023, In-Press, Journal of Neurochemistry
  • Dagda RK, Dagda RY, Vazquez-Mayorga E, Martinez B, Gallahue A. Intranasal Administration of Forskolin and Noopept Reverses Parkinsonian Pathology in PINK1 Knockout Rats. Int J Mol Sci. 2022 Dec 30;24(1):690. doi: 10.3390/ijms24010690.
  • Sterling KG, Dodd GK, Alhamdi S, Asimenios PG, Dagda RK, De Meirleir KL, Hudig D, Lombardi VC. Mucosal Immunity and the Gut-Microbiota-Brain-Axis in Neuroimmune Disease. Int J Mol Sci. 2022 Nov 1;23(21):13328. doi: 10.3390/ijms232113328. PMID: 36362150
  • Kataoka-Yahiro MR, Myaskovsky L, Dagda RK, Sood A, Conway K, Lopez JG, Burge MR, Sy FS. Evidence-based practice strategies for faculty professional development in clinical translational research at Institutional Development Award (IDeA) state institutions in the Mountain West. J Clin Transl Sci. 2022 May 20;6(1):e83. doi: 10.1017/cts.2022.407. eCollection 2022. PMID: 35949659
  • K Soman S, Swain M, Dagda RK. Multiplexing Seahorse XFe24 and ImageXpress® Nano Platforms for Comprehensive Evaluation of Mitochondrial Bioenergetic Profile and Neuronal Morphology. Methods Mol Biol. 2022;2497:349-362. doi: 10.1007/978-1-0716-2309-1_26. PMID: 35771457
  • Vazquez-Mayorga, E., Grigoruta, M., Dagda, R.K., Martinez, B., Dagda, RK. Intraperitoneal Administration of Forskolin Reverses Motor Symptoms and Loss of Midbrain Dopamine Neurons in PINK1 Knockout Rats, Journal of Parkinson's Disease, 2022, 1-20.
  • Fox CA, Romenskaia I, Dagda RK, Ryan RO. Cardiolipin nanodisks confer protection against doxorubicin-induced mitochondrial dysfunction. Biochim Biophys Acta Biomembr. 2022 Oct 1;1864(10):183984. doi: 10.1016/j.bbamem.2022.183984. Epub 2022 Jun 18. PMID: 35724738
  • Moschetti, A., O'Ryan, R., Dagda, R. K. Coenzyme Q nanodisks counteract the effect of statins on C2C12 myotubes. Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology and Medicine. In-press
  • Soman SK, Tingle D, Dagda RY, Torres M, Dagda M, Dagda RK. Cleaved PINK1 induces neuronal plasticity through PKA-mediated BDNF functional regulation. J Neurosci Res. 2021 May 27. doi: 10.1002/jnr.24854. Online ahead of print. PMID: 34046942
  • Das Banerjee, T. D, Reihl, K., Swain, M., Torres, M. Dagda, R.K. Mitochondrial PKA is neuroprotective in a cell culture model of Alzheimer's disease. Molecular Neurobiology Mol Neurobiol. 2021 Feb 23. doi: 10.1007/s12035-021-02333-w. Online ahead of print. PMID: 33624140


NIH/NIGMS (1R25GM146277-01A1) $1,268,061 07/01/23- 6/30/28 Dagda, Ruben K. (Principal Investigator, 15% effort), Ewing-Taylor, Jacque (PI) “Community of Bilingual English-Spanish Speakers Exploring Issues in Science and Health (CBESS)”

NIH/NINDS (1R01NS105783-05S2) $209,000 04/01/2022- 03/31/2023 Dagda, RK (Principal Investigator, 15%), "Administrative Supplement in Alzheimer's Disease to Role of PINK1 and PKA in dendrite homeostasis"

NIH/NINDS (R01NS10578303-S1) $101,112 03/01/2021- 04/01/2023 Dagda, Ruben K (Principal Investigator, 30%)
" Diversity Administrative supplement to Role of PINK1 and PKA in dendrite homeostasis"

NIH/NINDS (R01NS10578303-S1) $50,000 09/012020- 04/01/2021
Dagda, Ruben K (Principal Investigator, 30%) Administrative supplement to NIH/R01 "Role of PINK1 and PKA in regulating dendrite homeostasis in models of Parkinson's disease"

NSF (National I-Corps Award) $50,000 09/15/2021-09/14/2022
Dagda, RK (Principal Investigator) "Drug delivery systems for treating degenerative brain diseases"

1R01NS105783-01 Regulation of dendrite homeostasis by PINK1 and PKA in models of Parkinson's disease, PI: Ruben K. Dagda, $1,570,000, 04/01/2018-03/31/2023.

R25OD023795, Community of Bilingual English-Spanish Speakers Exploring Issues in Science and Health (CBESS), Co-PI: Ruben K. Dagda, $1,291,865.00 , 09/01/2017-07/31/2022. Nevada SEPA program. https://med.unr.edu/cbess

Pennington Foundation (Nevada), PI: Ruben K. Dagda, $283,000 01/01/2019- 06/01/2020

R01GM056350-17A1 Exploring the toxicity of aggregates associated with protein-misfolding diseases, PI: Suzanne Liebman: PI, Co-investigator: Ruben Dagda, $25,000/yr., 9/01/15- 08/31/2020

2U54GM104944-06 Clinical and Translational Research Infrastructure Network Idea-CTR, $1,120,000 (subaward, PI: Parvesh Kumar), 04/2019-06/2023


U.S. Application No. 17/055,349 filed November 13, 2020
(a 371 of PCT Appl. No. PCT/US2019/038239 filed June 20, 2019, which claims priority to U.S. Provisional Appl. No. 62/688,189 filed June 21, 2018)
Title: "Disease Modifying Methods For Treating Neurodegenerative Diseases Using Nootropic Agents"
By: Raul Y. Dagda, et al.
NVRIC Ref.: 18-012


Dr. Smijin K. Soman, postdoctoral scholar in Dr. Dagda's lab, was awarded a $1,000 fellowship from the Histochemical Society to attend the workshop on FRET/FLIM microscopy at the University of Virginia on March of 2019.

Dr. Smijin K. Soman was awarded $500.00 from the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs at the University of Nevada, Reno to attend the workshop on super-resolution microscopy at the University of Virginia on March of 2019.

Current Collaborators at Nevada:

    1. Maryam Raeeszadeh-Sarmazdeh, Ph.D., Assistant Professor Chemical & Materials Engineering
    2. Bahram A. Parvin, Professor Electrical & Biomedical Engineering
    3. Vincent Lombardi, Department of Microbiology, University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine; Jeff Cummings and Dr. Aaron Ritter Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas Project: identifying new biomarkers of Alzheimer's disease in fecal matter.
    4. Robert Renden, Department of Physiology and Cell Biology
      • Project: Role of glycolysis and oxidative phosphorylation in modulating synaptic transmission
    5. Susan Liebman, Department of Pharmacology
    6. Thomas Kidd, Department of Biology
      • Project: Mechanisms of degeneration of stomatogastric system neurons in PINK1-deficient flies

Former Members


Monica Rice, B.S., Cellular Molecular Physiology and Pharmacology Ph.D.

  • Mick Hitchcock Scholar (2015-2017)
  • Graduate Student Association travel awardee

Former Lab Members

  • Maryann Swain, Ph.D.
  • Emmanuel Vazques-Mayorga, Ph.D.
  • David Tingle, B.S.
  • Spencer Danner Bocks, B.S.
  • Analilia Ortega Soto, B.S.
  • Kylea Tapia, B.S.
  • Mitchell Pisane, Honor's Biochemistry undergraduate student
  • Mariana Grigoruta, M.D., International Research Scholar
  • Melanie Shackleford, Biology Undergraduate Student
  • Kelly Reihl., B.S., Cellular Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology Ph.D. student
  • Gracie Lawson, Microbiology and Molecular Immunology Undergraduate student
  • Mariana Torres, Neuroscience Honors undergraduate student

Tania Das Banerjee, Ph.D., Research Assistant Professor
• Awarded a 2-year Nevada Women's Health Initiative
• Awarded a 2014 American Society for Investigative Pathology travel award
• Awarded a 2013 Seahorse Biosciences Travel Award

Hannah Ercolini, Neuroscience Undergraduate Student
• Lab research assistant

Leah Burnett, Biochemistry Undergraduate Major
• COBRE Core-A Metabolic Core Analyzer supporting research assistant

Claire Pace, MPH, Environmental Health Sciences Ph.D. candidate
• Co-mentored Ph.D. student Christopher Gay, B.S., MPH Graduate Student
• Sanford Center for Aging Scholar

Abrianna Robles, B.A., BS-MD Post-baccalaureate Program
• Women's Health Initiative-supported lab assistant

Hannah Ercolini, Neuroscience Undergraduate Student
• Lab research assistant

Imaging Tools for Measuring Mitochondrial Morphology and Mitophagy

  • NIH Imaging tool for measuring mitochondrial morphology and content
  • NIH Image J macro for measuring mitophagy and autophagy
  • NIH Image J macro for measuring neurite length

For further information on the research projects contact Dr. Ruben K. Dagda.

Contact Us

The Dagda Lab
University of Nevada, Reno School Of Medicine
1664 North Virginia Street, Mail Stop 0318
Howard Medical Sciences, Room 148, Reno, NV 89557