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2017 Grants - Fu
Identifying Neurons Vulnerable to Tau Pathology in Early Alzheimer’s Disease
Hongjun Fu, Ph.D.
Columbia University Medical Center
New York, New York
2017 Alzheimer’s Association Research Fellowship (AARF)
Why are some nerve cells particularly vulnerable to tau-related damage in Alzheimer’s disease?
Tau protein normally functions to help support nerve cell structure and transport nutrients within the cell. In Alzheimer’s, tau protein can become abnormally modified and clump into “tangles” in the brain, a characteristic feature of the disease. The brain has many different types of nerve cells, but only some nerve cells accumulate tau tangles and die. More research is needed to determine what makes certain nerve cells vulnerable to damage, while others are spared, in Alzheimer’s disease.
Hongjun Fu, Ph.D., and colleagues plan to identify the specific types of nerve cells that are vulnerable to tau-induced damage using brain tissue from individuals who had Alzheimer’s disease. They will use novel “genetic profiling” methods to determine which genes are turned on/off in these vulnerable nerve cells and see how this relates to the level of abnormal tau accumulation. Their goal is to compare the molecular fingerprint of nerve cells with and without tau tangles to determine the biological pathways that increase nerve cell risk for tau-related damage.
The results of these studies could help uncover the biological factors that make certain nerve cells susceptible to abnormal tau build-up in Alzheimer’s disease. A better understanding of these mechanisms could help scientists design treatments to protect vulnerable neurons from tau-related damage and potentially slow or stop the progression of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.