Explore This Lab


Group photo of lab
Left to right, back to front: Erik Abels; Koen Breyne, PhD; Tommy Van Solinge, MD; Stefano Ughetto; Naoto Ito, PhD; Gabriel Raffa; Robin Sobolewski-Lamberti; Killian Patrick O’Brien, PhD; Lilian Cruz, PhD; Pike See Cheah, PhD; Lisa Nieland; Xandra Breakefield, PhD; Shilpa Prabhakar, MS. Not shown: Jamal Al Ali, MD

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.

Research Projects

  • 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 in neurology

All applicants should register with the Massachusetts General Hospital Careers website.

Principal Investigator

Xandra Breakefield, PhD
Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School
Geneticist, Neurology & 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 Doctoral Fellow, Universiti Putra Malaysia
  • Lilian Cruz, PhD, Post Doctoral Fellow, University of Sao Paulo
  • Killian Patrick O’Brien, PhD, Post Doctoral Fellow, National University of Ireland
  • Al Ali, Jamal, MD, Post Doctoral fellow, American University of Beirut
  • Koen Breyne, PhD, Post Doctoral Fellow, Ghent University, Belgium
  • Erik Abels, PhD graduate student, Utrecht University, Utrecht, the Netherlands
  • 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
  • Verhoeff, Tessa, Graduate, Utrecht University, Utrecht, the Netherlands
  • Robin Sobolewski-Lamberti, Senior Grants Manager
  • Suzanne McDavitt, Editorial Associate
  • Backtosch, Mustafa, PhD graduate student, University of Hamburg, Germany
  • Meadhbh Brennan, PhD, Post Doctoral Fellow, National University of Ireland
  • 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