Ursula Sandau, Ph.D.

Ursula Sandau

Ursula Sandau, Ph.D.

Oregon Health & Science University
3181 S.W. Sam Jackson Park Road
Portland, OR 97239
Mail Code: L459

Email: sandauu@ohsu.edu

Dr. Sandau is interested in the role of extracellular vesicle miRNAs as biomarkers for and mediators of neurological dysfunction in Alzheimer’s disease. She discovered a set of extracellular vesicle miRNAs with increased expression in Alzheimer’s disease that are predicted to repress the translation of proteins integral to SNARE-dependent exocytosis. SNARE-dependent exocytosis has been shown to facilitate the trafficking and insertion of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors into the post-synaptic plasma membrane, a process that is necessary for neuronal plasticity, learning, and memory. Dr. Sandau’s research is focused on examining miRNA regulation of genes that facilitate N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor trafficking and signaling within the context of Alzheimer’s disease. In a collaboration with the Methamphetamine Research Center at OHSU, she has also begun to investigate the potential of plasma extracellular vesicles and their miRNA cargo to serve as biosignatures for neuropsychiatric impairments that occur in addiction and impede recovery.

Dr. Sandau earned her BSc, a double major in Genetics and Medical Microbiology & Immunology, from the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 1998. She then attended Colorado State University and earned her PhD in the field of Biomedical Neurosciences in 2006. Her doctoral thesis demonstrated that glucocorticoids exacerbate hypoxia-induced neuronal cell death by regulating the expression of the pro-apoptotic gene BNIP3. In 2009, she began her postdoctoral training with Dr. Sergio Ojeda at OHSU where she identified that disruptions in astrocyte to neuron adhesion and associated erbB-4 signaling results in early onset of puberty and Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. In 2017, she joined Dr. Saugstad’s research team in APOM as a Senior Research Associate to study the role of miRNAs as diagnostic biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease, and then joined the faculty at OHSU as Instructor in January 2023.


Collins Medical Trust grant in 2023 titled “Disruptions in SNARE-dependent Exocytosis and N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) Receptor Localization as a Novel Pathophysiology in Alzheimer’s Disease”.

American Society for Intercellular Communications 2022 annual meeting, Best Oral Presentation Award for seminar titled “Relationship between plasma extracellular vesicle miRNAs and clinical features of methamphetamine use disorder”

Anesthesiology & Perioperative Medicine Research Day Poster Awards in 2021 and 2019.