Xandra Breakefield

Breakefield Laboratory: Xandra O. Breakefield, PhD

The Breakefield laboratory uses molecular genetic techniques to elucidate the etiology of inherited neurological diseases and to develop vectors which can deliver genes to the nervous system for therapeutic purposes.

Lab Phone: 617-726-5728

PubMed Publications


Our laboratory focuses on understanding genetic mechanisms underlying diseases of the nervous system and developing therapies and biomarkers for these diseases. Longstanding work has focused on genes causing movement disorders, including early onset torsion dystonia (DYT1) and X-linked dystonia parkinsonism (XDP).

A major emphasis has also been on brain tumors, especially glioma/glioblastoma, as well as on tumor suppressor syndromes – neurofibromatosis type 1 & 2 and tuberous sclerosis type 1 & 2. We have developed preclinical mouse models for these tumors and used a number of viral vectors for gene therapy.

Our recent work has also focused on characterization of extracellular vesicles (exosomes and microvesicles) released by brain tumor cells, including their use as biomarkers, their ability to modify cells in their microenvironment in favor of tumor growth, and their potential as therapeutic delivery vehicles in the nervous system.

Group Members

The research team at the Breakefield Lab

Breakefield team
In the back row, from left, are Backtosch Mustafa; Killian Patrick O’Brien, PhD; Al Ali Jamal, Naoto Ito, PhD. Middle row, from left, Erik Abels, Pike See Cheah, PhD; Robin Sobolewski-Lamberti; In the front row, from left, are Lilian Cruz, PhD; Shilpa Prabhakar, MS; Dr. Breakefield, PhD.

Xandra O. Breakefield, PhD

Principal Investigator

Xandra O. Breakefield, PhD
Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School
Geneticist, Neurology and Radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital

Current Lab Members

  • Shilpa Prabhakar, MSc, Lab Manager
  • Naoto Ito, PhD, Instructor, University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan
  • Pike See, Cheah, PhD, Post Doctorate Fellow, Universiti Putra Malaysia
  • Meadhbh Brennan, PhD, Post Doctorate Fellow, National University of Ireland
  • Lilian Cruz, PhD, Post Doctorate Fellow, University of Sao Paulo
  • Killian Patrick O’Brien, PhD, Post Doctorate Fellow, National University of Ireland
  • Al Ali, Jamal, PhD, Post Doctorate fellow, American University of Beirut
  • Koen Breyne, PhD, Post Doctorate Fellow,  Ghent University, Belgium
  • Erik Abels, PhD graduate student, Utrecht University, Utrecht, the Netherlands
  • Backtosch, Mustafa, PhD graduate student, University of Hamburg, Germany
  • Van Solinge, Tommy, MD, PhD graduate student, University Medical Center, Utrecht, the Netherlands
  • Stefano, Ughetto, PhD graduate student, University of Turin, Italy
  • Nieland, Lisa, Graduate, PhD graduate student, University Medical Center, Utrecht, the Netherlands
  • Robin Sobolewski-Lamberti, Senior Grants Manager
  • Suzanne McDavitt, Editorial Associate


  • Jeffrey Hewet, BS, Bridgewater State College
  • Brian Niland, BS, University of Maine
  • Lisa Pike, BS, Brandeis University
  • Christian Badr, MS, University of Henri, Poincare in France
  • Thomas Wurdinger, PhD, Free University, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  • Maria Luisa Cortes, PhD, Autonomous University of Madrid, Spain
  • Bakhos Tannous, PhD, University of Windsor, Canada
  • Casey Maguire, PhD, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry
  • Charles Lai, PhD, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
  • Noriko Wakabayashi-Ito, PhD, University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan
  • Bence Gyorgy, MD/PhD, Semmelweis University, Budapest, Hungary
  • Mikolaj Zaborowski, MD, Poznań University of Medical Sciences, Poland
  • Leonora Balaj, PhD, VU University, the Netherlands
  • Johan Skog, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer, Exosomes Diagnostics
  • Xuan Zhang, MD/MS, Suchow University, Suchow, China
  • Jyostna Dhakal, Wilson College, Chambersburg, USA
  • Martin Ingelsson, PhD, Uppsala University, Sweden
  • Niek Maas, PhD, University Medical Center, Utrecht, the Netherlands
  • Andrea Maas, VU University, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  • David Yellen, undergraduate student

Research Projects

Research summary

  • Gene Therapy for TSC and NF1 using AAV vectors
  • EVs in glioblastoma as vehicles of RNA delivery (e.g. microRNA) in tumor progression and therapy
  • Understanding genetics and pathophysiology of X-linked dystonia parkinsonism and DYT1 dystonia

Research Positions

Read about and apply for residency, fellowship and observership programs at http://www.massgeneral.org/neurology/education/.

All applicants should register with the Mass General Careers Web site at http://www.massgeneral.org/careers/viewall.aspx. Request a list of current open positions at mghmind-jobs@partners.org.


Contact Us

Breakefield Lab

Building 149

149 13th Street , CNY B149-Room 6203Massachusetts General Hospital, Neurology Research Charlestown, MA 02129
  • Near Public Transit
  • Accessible

Lab Phone: 617-726-5728

PubMed Publications

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