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2010 Grants - Mellott
Effect of Perinatal Choline Supplementation on an Alzheimer's Disease Model
Tiffany Mellott, Ph.D.
Boston University Medical Campus
2010 New Investigator Research Grant
Alzheimer's disease is characterized by declines in cognitive function. These declines occur, in part, because of the brain's inability to produce new nerve cells and maintain synapses. Synapses are the tiny channels through which brain cells communicate with one another.
In preliminary research, Tiffany Mellott, Ph.D., and colleagues studied whether choline—a nutrient that offspring receive from their mothers during pregnancy—may help prevent age-related memory problems in healthy rats. The researchers observed that when mother rats received choline supplements during pregnancy, their offspring showed better spatial-temporal memory than did the offspring of untreated rats. Spatial-temporal memory promotes the ability to maneuver around an environment. Offspring of the treated rats also showed none of the age-related memory declines that occurred in the control rats' offspring.
For their current proposal, the investigators will conduct a larger choline study with rats to confirm and expand their earlier results. They will verify whether choline helps slow age-related memory declines. Dr. Mellott's group will also assess whether the offspring of treated rats 1) retain their ability to produce new neurons as they age and 2) maintain the health of their synapses. Finally, the investigators will administer choline in mother rats engineered to develop Alzheimer-like symptoms. The animals' offspring will be assessed to determine if choline helps prevent Alzheimer-related deficits in brain cell communication.
The results of this effort may help identify choline treatment as an effective strategy for preventing Alzheimer's disease.