The Johnson Laboratory is an independent research laboratory focused on understanding the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying brain tumor development and response to treatment, as well as understanding how neurons respond to various treatments for brain tumors. Dr. Johnson’s laboratory and the Neurosurgical Oncology Laboratory (under the direction of Dr. Peter M. Black and Dr. Rona Carroll) have joined forces to create an integrated team approach to understanding brain tumors and to finding a cure for these disorders.

Mark D. Johnson, M.D., Ph.D., earned his B.A. degree in chemistry from Amherst College in 1986, and his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees in medicine and neurobiology from Harvard Medical School in 1995. In 2003, he completed a residency in neurosurgery and a postdoctoral fellowship in neuronal death mechanisms at the University of Washington in Seattle. He subsequently returned to Boston to join the Department of Neurosurgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School as Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery, where he established a research laboratory to study the molecular and cellular biology of normal and cancerous neurons and astrocytes.

Dr. Johnson’s laboratory uses a variety of techniques to identify proteins that are involved in the growth, survival and malignant transformation of neurons and astrocytes. These techniques include culture of normal and cancerous cells from the nervous system, gene cloning and gene transfer techniques, RNAi and shRNA techniques, genomic microarray analyses of tumor DNA and messenger RNA, and a variety of proteomic techniques. Other members of the Johnson laboratory research team in 2004 included Yi Yu, Ph.D., Fenghua Liu, M.D., Ph.D., Xiuli Jiang, Ph.D, Amanda Brosius (undergraduate, Harvard College) and Meg Thomas (undergraduate, Colgate University).   Dr.

Johnson and his team also collaborate closely with biostatisticians at the Harvard Genomics Center to conduct the statistical analyses required to analyze the large amounts of genetic information obtained from brain tumors. Dr. Johnson’s laboratory receives funding from several sources, including an NIH/NINDS K08 Award, a Sontag Foundation Distinguished Scientist Award, the Hagerty Fund, the Brigham and Women’s Institute for the Neurosciences, a Dana Farber Cancer Institute Faculty Recruitment Award, and the Office of the Dean at Harvard Medical School.


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