Tony Wyss-Coray, Ph.D.

Professor of Neurology and Neurological Sciences at Stanford University

Co-Director of the Stanford Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center

Associate Director of the Center for Tissue Regeneration, Repair and Restoration at the Palo Alto VA

Tony Wyss-Coray is a professor of neurology and neurological sciences at Stanford University, the co-director of the Stanford Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and the associate director of the Center for Tissue Regeneration, Repair and Restoration at the Palo Alto VA. His lab investigates the role of immune responses in brain aging and neurodegeneration with a focus on cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. He combines the study of mouse models with human clinical samples using cytomic, proteomic and bioinformatics tools. His most recent studies show that systemic circulatory factors can modulate neurogenesis, neuroinflammation and cognitive function in mice and that blood-derived factors from young mice or humans can rejuvenate the aging mouse brain.

The Wyss-Coray lab is interested in the role of immune responses and inflammation in brain aging and neurodegenerative diseases. As humans get older, many beneficial immune responses decline, while low-level chronic inflammation increases throughout the body. This process, which has been dubbed “inflammaging,” likely contributes to brain dysfunction associated with aging. Indeed, recent studies from our laboratory have shown that in artificially induced “Siamese” mice, which share a common circulatory system through parabiosis, the blood of old mice is sufficient to induce degenerative changes in the brains of young mice and reduce their memory function. The lab has isolated blood factors with known functions in the immune system that are responsible for some of these detrimental effects. By targeting and neutralizing such factors during normal aging or in models of neurodegeneration, we are exploring new therapeutic strategies. Conversely, in the same model of parabiosis, old mice benefit from exposure to a young circulatory system: old brains show signs of rejuvenation, including increased levels of neurogenesis in a brain region involved in memory formation, reduced neuroinflammation and activation of genes involved in memory function and cellular remodeling. Moreover, blood plasma harvested from young mice or young humans is capable of improving memory function in old mice or in mice that model Alzheimer’s disease. The lab now is searching for factors in young blood that mediate these beneficial effects.

Wyss-Coray has received many honors and awards for his work, including the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award, 2015; the Glenn Award for Research in Biological Mechanisms of Aging, 2015; the NIH Director’s Transformative Research Award, 2013; and the Veterans Administration Senior Research Career Scientist Award, 2012; he has spoken at Google Zeitgeist, Global TED and the World Economic Forum.


Funded Research

Project Description Researchers Funding
Rejuvenation of Microglia in Brain Aging and Neurodegeneration

Aging impacts nearly every tissue and function in an organism, and the associated deterioration is the primary risk factor for major human diseases, including cancer, cardiac disease and such neurodegenerative diseases as Alzheimer’s disease. The underlying cause of aging is likely a multifaceted yet interconnected tangle of processes, but there is growing evidence that in the brain, microglia—which are the only resident immune cell—have a major role.

2015 to 2016