Elizabeth Edgerly, Ph.D., is our chief program officer and an expert on all things research!
Dr. Kitazawa accepts Alzheimer’s Association funding for his study at UC Merced.
The Alzheimer’s Association had the pleasure of presenting a new investigator research check to Masashi Kitazawa, Ph.D. at the University of California, Merced. Alzheimer’s Association New Investigator grans fund the next generation of promising scientists who have earned their doctoral degrees within the last 10 years. We had a lot of support from our Walk to End Alzheimer’s volunteers in Fresno and Modesto, who made the drive to Merced to learn more about Dr. Kitazawa’s exciting area of research.
The grant will fund his study Neuroinflammation-Induced Alterations of GLT-1 and Synaptotoxicity in Alzheimer’s Disease. So what exactly does that mean?
First, some background: Astrocytes are “helper” cells in the brain that play a variety of roles. For example, they help support the function of neurons by providing energy to these cells. Recent studies have found that astrocytes may also prevent a toxic process called excitotoxicity in synapses—the tiny channels through which brain cells communicate with one another. Excitotoxicity occurs when synapses become overstimulated, and it can lead to brain cell dysfunction and death in Alzheimer’s disease. This toxic overstimulation may begin early in the disease process, and it may result from astrocytes becoming dysfunctional. Specifically, astrocytes may lose their ability to transport a neurotransmitter (or chemical messenger) called glutamate. This, in turn, may lead to abnormal glutamate concentration around synapses, which may cause synaptic loss and brain cell death.
What Dr. Kitasawa has found so far: In preliminary studies, Dr. Kitazawa and colleagues have found that Alzheimer’s mice age or their dementia progresses, they show reduced levels a protein called glutamate transporter-1 (GLT-1). Astrocytes need this protein to remove excess glutamate in the brain. The team also found that they could moderate GLT-1 losses by blocking the activities of another protein called interleukin-1. In a related experiment with cultured cells, the researchers observed that beta-amyloid—a protein fragment implicated in Alzheimer’s—could repress GLT-1 expression in neurons. These findings suggest that as brain beta-amyloid proliferates in early Alzheimer’s disease, it can help induce astroglial dysfunction and excitotoxicity.
For the funded study: Dr. Kitazawa’s team will use cultured neurons to identify mechanisms underlying the role of beta-amyloid and interleukin-1 in repressing GLT-1 activity. They will also examine how therapies designed to prevent the loss of GLT-1 may protect synapses and neurons in Alzheimer’s-like mice. Results of this effort could shed new light on the consequences of astrocyte dysfunction in Alzheimer’s disease.
View a slideshow of all the photos from the research check presentation: 2013 Research Check Presentation to Dr. Kitazawa
Learn more about Alzheimer’s Association funded research at www.alz.org/research.
There has been news coverage of the start of a clinical trial sponsored by a company called Functional Neuromodulation of deep brain stimulation (DBS) for mild Alzheimer’s disease. The study is being conducted in 20 people with mild Alzheimer’s in a several research facilities in the U.S. and Canada.
The study is using a DBS system first approved by the FDA in 1997. It has been used on more than 85,000 people worldwide as a treatment for Parkinson’s Disease and Essential Tremor. There has been one pilot study completed in six Alzheimer’s patients so far. . The FDA has approved a study involving 20 people with Alzheimer’s for further investigation of the safety of the procedure and intervention. The company is recruiting those people now, and some are already enrolled. By the end of this week, seven procedures in people with Alzheimer’s will have been completed. Continue reading “Could a “brain pacemaker” work for people with Alzheimer’s?” »
Two articles released by the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) report on a newly identified risk gene for Alzheimer’s disease.
Genetic mutations that are confirmed as Alzheimer’s risk genes tell us more about the disease – often that Alzheimer’s is somehow connected to the regular function of the gene. They can also become targets for therapies or point us to new targets for therapies.
The first Alzheimer’s risk gene identified was APOE-e4. Everyone inherits a copy of some form of APOE from each parent. Those who inherit one copy of APOE-e4 have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Those who inherit two copies have an even higher risk, but not a certainty. In addition to raising risk, APOE-e4 may tend to make symptoms appear at a younger age than usual. Scientists estimate that APOE-e4 is implicated in about 20 percent to 25 percent of Alzheimer’s cases.
The article authors say the gene mutation confers a relatively large additional risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, comparing it to ApoE. At the same time, the mutation seems to be quite rare – occurring in less than one-half of one percent of the study participants. The gene mutation is related to reduced control of inflammatory factors that may lead to inflammation and microglial activation, both long-suspected contributors to Alzheimer’s disease pathology. Continue reading “Have Scientists Discovered a New Alzheimer’s Gene?” »
William Fisher, CEO presents Alzheimer’s Association funding to Gil Rabinovichi, M.D.
I’m pleased to share with you that the Alzheimer’s Association presented a research grant check to Gil Rabinovici, M.D., neurologist at the University of California at San Francisco. Dr. Rabinovichi has received support from the Alzheimer’s Association since the very beginning of his career. He’s a great example of how research funding from the Alzheimer’s Association fosters young scientists and provides the opportunity to make a foothold in the industry.
The Alzheimer’s Association awarded this grant to fund Dr. Rabinovici’s study Imaging and CSF Biomarkers in the Diagnosis of Early-Onset Dementia. Continue reading “Research Grant Just Awarded!” »
Eli Lilly and Co. (Lilly) recently released additional data from two Phase 3 clinical trials of solanezumab for mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, scientists at the Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study (ADCS) reported its results of an independent analysis of the Phase 3 data. Lilly initially reported in August that the results of the Phase 3 trials did not reach their objectives, but did find that the drug-treated group showed slower cognitive decline, though only in the people with mild Alzheimer’s.
The ADCS independent analysis of the Lilly trial data with solanezumab confirmed that the two separate studies did not meet both cognitive and functional endpoints. However, the ADCS analysis found that the drug showed a statistically significant slowing of cognitive decline in people with mild Alzheimer’s. Continue reading “Solanezumab for Alzheimer’s: Scientists are hopeful” »
I’m a big fan of microwave popcorn so I was disheartened to see dozens of headlines in the past couple weeks that imply the butter flavoring in popcorn could be related to Alzheimer’s. I took a closer look at the information and here’s the rundown:
Diacetyl, a substance used in butter flavoring, increases beta-amyloid clumping in test tube experiments. It also enhances beta-amyloid’s toxic effects on nerve cells grown in the laboratory. Beta-amyloid is an abnormal protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
The research was conducted in cell culture, basically in a test tube.
Beyond the headline
Despite the news headlines about this study, diacetyl is no longer used in the popcorn industry! This is because substance was previously shown to have negative respiratory health effects on popcorn factory workers. In addition, while these results were achieved in a test tube, the same findings may not be true inside a person’s brain.
The bottom line
While popcorn lovers probably won’t be exposed to this substance as it’s no longer used in the industry, research on diacetyl could be an interesting new area of research.
For more information on the latest news and developments in Alzheimer’s research, visit www.alz.org/research.