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Mark Zabel

Associate Department Head for Graduate Education
Associate Professor
Associate Director, Prion Research Center

Office: 227 Pathology
Office Phone: (970)491-1455

Dr Mark Zabel established his prion research laboratory at CSU in 2005 and is currently tenured Associate Professor and Associate Director of the Prion Research Center. He received postdoctoral training in prion biology, biochemistry and pathology from the laboratory of Dr. Adriano Aguzzi at the Neuropathology Institute, University Hospital of Zürich. The first American to join the Aguzzi lab, which is world-renowned in the prion field, Dr. Zabel was the first in his lab to receive the prestigious Human Frontiers in Science Long Term Research Fellowship. Dr. Zabel coordinated an international course entitled “Prion Biology and Biochemistry in vitro and in vivo” for the European Molecular Biology Organization while at the Institute. He also received training in immunology in the laboratory of Nobel Prize winner Dr. Rolf Zinkernagel​ in the Immunology Department, also at the University Hospital of Zürich.

Dr. Zabel’s lab currently collaborates with researchers from Fort Collins, the Front Range of Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, Montana, Ohio, Tennessee, Massachusetts, England, Scotland, Germany, Switzerland and Australia. He received the University of Utah Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Distinguished Alumni Award (2010) the  CSU CVMBS Pfizer Award for outstanding faculty researcher (2013). Dr. Zabel is an Academic Editor at the Journal PLoS One, and has built a strong reputation as a reviewer in high tier journals including EMBO Journal, Journal of Immunology, Journal of Virology, Nature, Neuron, and Science. Dr. Zabel has also distinguished himself as a meeting organizer and session chair at the Regional Rocky Mountain Prion Research Symposium, Fort Collins (2008), and the International Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy workshops in Montreal, Canada (2011) and Amsterdam, the Netherlands (2012).

Research Interests

The family of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) includes scrapie in sheep; bovine spongiform encephalopathy in cattle; chronic wasting disease (CWD) in deer, elk and moose; and Kuru, Gerstmann-Sträussler-Scheinker and Creutzfeldt-Jakob diseases (CJD) in humans. A once heretical view that is now widely accepted states that exposure to a nucleic acid-free, protease resistant form of the endogenous cellular host prion protein (PrPC), termed PrPSc, solely initiates and propagates species-specific TSEs. Outbreaks of a new, variant form of CJD in Europe have raised serious concern that the species barrier between bovine and human TSEs has been breached occurred. Whether CWD or other TSEs can breach or have breached species barriers remains a point of intense investigation.

My main area of interest lies in prion immunology. This includes deciphering the cellular and molecular mechanisms of prion accumulation and replication in lymphoid organs, with the ultimate goal of developing therapeutic strategies to ablate subsequent neuroinvasion and disease transmission. My lab is extending current work investigating the role of Complement in peripheral prion pathogenesis of mouse scrapie by developing mouse models suitable for studying Chronic Wasting Disease. We are elucidating the molecular mechanisms of prion accumulation and replication in mouse scrapie using established murine models.

We are also exploring new prion detection and diagnostic techniques, including in vitro prion amplification using protein misfolding cyclic amplification (PMCA). We are using PMCA to investigate potential prion reservoirs in the environment, including water, soil and feces. We are also characterizing prion strains using PMCA in conjunction with other biochemical and biological methods to determine the molecular underpinnings of prion species barriers and strain adaptation.

A third area of interest lies in prion disease therapeutics. We are currently developing a novel siRNA delivery system that efficiently and specifically targets neurons, suppresses PrPc expression and ultimately cures prion diseases in vitro and in vivo.

Current Staff

Heather Bender, Research Associate
Val Johnson, Research Associate
Clare Hoover, Research Associate
Sarah Kane, Research Associate
Aimee Ortega, Research Associate
Eric Swanson, Research Associate

Savannah Rocha, Undergraduate Research Associate
Annalis Norman, Undergraduate Research Associate
Elizabeth Gordon, Undergraduate Research Associate
Amanda Hitpas, Undergraduate Research Associate
Jessica Annis, Undergraduate Research Associate

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Contact Us:
1682 Campus Delivery
Fort Collins, Colorado 80523-1682

(970) 491-6144

(970) 491-0603