Faculty

Todd Morgan, PhD

Research Professor of Gerontology

Education

  • BS Chemistry, Dana College
  • PhD Biochemistry, Colorado State University
  • Postdoctoral training in Neurobiology, University of Southern California

Research

Molecular mechanisms and dietary, inflammatory and hormonal contributions underlying normal brain aging and Alzheimer’s disease.

Overview

Todd Morgan, Research Professor of Gerontology and Director of the USC Leonard Davis School Mouse Phenotyping Core, has a long-standing interest in elucidating the molecular mechanisms underlying normal brain aging and age-related neuropathologies with a particular focus on environmental, dietary and inflammatory contributions. His initial training in biochemistry was expanded to molecular and cellular biology in living organisms while working with rodents models of aging and age-related diseases.

Morgan designed and orchestrated the first nanoscale-sized particulate matter (nPM) mouse exposure study at USC. nPM is a subfraction of traffic-derived air pollution particles. Working with USC Leonard Davis School Professor Caleb Finch, their team found that nPM selectively target glutamate receptors and causes neuroinflammation (Morgan et al, 2011). This area of investigation has expanded to examine effects of air pollution across the lifespan (prenatal: Davis et al, 2013; advanced age: Zhang et al, 2012) and the role of air pollution exposure on human cognition and amyloidogenesis (Cacciottolo et al, 2017) and stroke (Liu et al, 2016) in mouse models. Since 2011, Morgan has co-authored more than 12 publications on air pollution, and an additional 5 studies are in various stages of pre-publication. 

Morgan’s work has also expanded the understanding of caloric restriction. He was one of the first to report that caloric restriction attenuated amyloid beta deposition in mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease (Patel et al, 2005). These studies grew out of earlier studies examining the role of diet on glial activation (Morgan et al, 1997; Morgan et al, 1999). More recently, Morgan has partnered with USC Leonard Davis School Professor Valter Longo to examine the role of periodic fasting and fasting mimicking diets on healthspan (Brandhorst et al, 2015; Wei et al, 2017), cancer (Di Biase et al, 2016) and multiple sclerosis (Choi et al, 2016).

In addition, Morgan has long studied the role of microglia in brain function. His first studies examined TGF-ß1 when this cytokine was not believed to be produced by brain cells (Morgan et al, 1993; Morgan et al, 1995; Morgan et al, 2000). He then developed an in vitro protocol for origination and study of microglia and astrocytes from advanced age rodents, where he found that the in vivo phenotypes of glia persist in culture (Rozovsky et al, 1998). Morgan was also part of the team that initially identified oligomeric amyloid beta structures (Oda et al, 1995; Lambert et al, 1998; Lambert et al, 2001), which has become a prominent area of investigation in Alzheimer’s disease by many labs.

Office Phone: (213) 740‑4083