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2005 Grant - Chen
COX-2 Regulation of Endocannabinoid Signaling in Neurodegeneration
Chu Chen, Ph.D.
Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center
New Orleans, Louisiana
2005 Investigator-Initiated Research Grant
The enzyme cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) plays a major role in inflammation and has been linked to various diseases, including Alzheimer's disease. Recently, a new role for the enzyme was discovered: it can degrade a group of molecules called endocannabinoids. Similar to the active ingredient in marijuana, these naturally occurring brain chemicals can protect neurons from injury and degeneration.
In studies with mice, Chu Chen, Ph.D., and colleagues will examine whether excessive COX-2 may sufficiently reduce endocannabinoids to cause neurotoxicity and neurodegeneration in specific regions of the brain. The researchers will test if COX-2 regulates the levels of these chemicals in the hippocampus, a part of the brain that is particularly susceptible to damage in people with Alzheimer's disease. In particular, the researchers will focus on the role of COX-2 and endocannabinoids in synapses, the tiny junctions between neurons that are crucial for sending nerve signals through the brain.
The research may identify new therapeutic approaches for dealing with COX-2–mediated neurodegeneration.