Karen Duff, Ph.D.

UK DRI (Dementia Research Institute), Centre Director, University College London


With over 20 years’ experience working in Alzheimer’s disease, Dr. Karen Duff returned to the UK in 2020 as Centre Director of the UK DRI (Dementia Research Institute) hub in University College London.

After completing a Ph.D. in the University of Cambridge lab of Nobel Prize winner Sydney Brenner in 1991, Dr. Duff has become a leader in the field of neurodegenerative disease. She is best known for her work in the development of several transgenic research models, which have driven the field forward in its mission to find therapeutics for these devastating conditions.  Dr. Duff has genetically engineered several widely used mouse models for AD, tauopathies and synucleinopathies. These mice have been used in studies ranging from MRI and PET for diagnostics development, to proof-of-concept testing of therapeutic targets. Her main interests are fourfold – studying how AD-related pathology and dysfunction propagates through the brain and from cell to cell as the disease worsens; using multi-omics platforms (transcriptomics, lipidomics and metabolomics) to study the role of aging and inheritance of the AD risk variant APOE4 as an initiating factor in AD; the role and therapeutic potential of protein clearance pathways in tauopathies and the basis and manipulation of memory deficits using optogenetic and brain stimulation techniques.

After receiving her Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge (UK), she moved to London to work briefly with Alison Goate before moving to the US with John Hardy in 1992 to a position at the University of South Florida. In 1996, she moved her lab to the Mayo Clinic Florida and in 1998 to the Nathan Kline Institute/New York University before joining Columbia University in 2006. She has published over 140 peer-reviewed papers and has received several awards in addition to the prestigious Potamkin Prize in 2006.

Funded Research

These projects were made possible from Cure Alzheimer's Fund support.

Selected Publications

These published papers resulted from Cure Alzheimer’s Fund support.

Capano, L. S., Sato, C., Ficulle, E., Yu, A., Horie, K., Kwon, J. S., Burbach, K. F., Barthélemy, N. R., Fox, S. G., Karch, C. M., Bateman, R. J., Houlden, H., Morimoto, R. I., Holtzman, D. M., Duff, K. E., & Yoo, A. S. Recapitulation of endogenous 4R tau expression and formation of insoluble tau in directly reprogrammed human neurons, Cell Stem Cell, June 2, 2022, Read More

Schaler, A. W., Runyan, A. M., Clelland, C. L., Sydney, E. J., Fowler, S. L., Figueroa, H. Y., Shioda, S., Santa-Maria, I., Duff, K. E., & Myeku, N. PAC1 receptor-mediated clearance of tau in postsynaptic compartments attenuates tau pathology in mouse brain, Science Translational Medicine, May 26, 2021, Read More

Nuriel, T., Peng, K. Y., Ashok, A., Dillman, A. A., Figueroa, H. Y., Apuzzo, J., Ambat, J., Levy, E., Cookson, M. R., Mathews, P. M., & Duff, K. E. The Endosomal-Lysosomal Pathway is Dysregulated by APOE4 Expression in Vivo, Frontiers in Neuroscience, December 12, 2017, Read More

Nuriel, T., Angulo, S. L., Khan, U., Ashok, A., Chen, Q., Figueroa, H. Y., Emrani, S., Liu, L., Herman, M., Barrett, G., Savage, V., Buitrago, L., Cepeda-Prado, E., Fung, C., Goldberg, E., Gross, S. S., Hussaini, S. A., Moreno, H., Small, S. A., & Duff, K. E. Neuronal hyperactivity due to loss of inhibitory tone in APOE4 mice lacking Alzheimer’s disease-like pathology, Nature Communications, November 13, 2017, Read More

Fu, H., Possenti, A., Freer, R., Nakano, Y., Hernandez Villegas, N. C., Tang, M., Cauhy, P. V. M., Lassus, B. A., Chen, S., Fowler, S. L., Figueroa, H. Y., Huey, E. D., Johnson, G. V. W., Vendruscolo, M., & Duff, K. E. A tau homeostasis signature is linked with the cellular and regional vulnerability of excitatory neurons to tau pathology, Nature Neuroscience, December 17, 2018, Read More

Myeku, N., & Duff, K. E. Targeting the 26S Proteasome to Protect against Proteotoxic Diseases, Trends in Molecular Medicine, December 9, 2017, Read More

Fu, H., Hardy, J., & Duff, K. E. Selective vulnerability in neurodegenerative diseases, Nature Neuroscience, September 24, 2018, Read More

Wu, J. W., Hussaini, S. A., Bastille, I. M., Rodriguez, G. A., Mrejeru, A., Rilett, K., Sanders, D. W., Cook, C., Fu, H., Boonen, R. A., Herman, M., Nahmani, E., Emrani, S., Figueroa, Y. H., Diamond, M. I., Clelland, C. L., Wray, S., & Duff, K. E. Neuronal activity enhances tau propagation and tau pathology in vivo, Nature Neuroscience, June 20, 2016, Read More

Area-Gomez, E., Larrea, D., Pera, M., Agrawal, R. R., Guilfoyle, D. N., Pirhaji, L., Shannon, K., Arain, H. A., Ashok, A., Chen, Q., Dillman, A. A., Figueroa, H. Y., Cookson, M. R., Gross, S. S., Fraenkel, E., Duff, K. E., & Nuriel, T. APOE4 is Associated with Differential Regional Vulnerability to Bioenergetic Deficits in Aged APOE Mice, Scientific Reports, March 9, 2020, Read More

Miranda, A. M., Ashok, A., Chan, R. B., Zhou, B., Xu, Y., McIntire, L. B., Area-Gomez, E., Di Paolo, G., Duff, K. E., Oliveira, T. G., & Nuriel, T. Effects of APOE4 allelic dosage on lipidomic signatures in the entorhinal cortex of aged mice, Translational Psychiatry, March 29, 2022, Read More

Taddei, R. N., Perbet, R., Mate de Gerando, A., Wiedmer, A. E., Sanchez-Mico, M., Connors Stewart, T., Gaona, A., Melloni, A., Amaral, A. C., Duff, K., Frosch, M. P., & Gómez-Isla, T. Tau Oligomer-Containing Synapse Elimination by Microglia and Astrocytes in Alzheimer Disease, JAMA Neurology, October 9, 2023, Read More

Blaudin de Thé, F. X., Lassus, B., Schaler, A. W., Fowler, S. L., Goulbourne, C. N., Jeggo, R., Mannoury la Cour, C., Millan, M. J., & Duff, K. E. P62 accumulates through neuroanatomical circuits in response to tauopathy propagation, Acta Neuropathologica Communications, November 2, 2021, Read More