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2017 Grants - Lee
Towards an Animal Model for Late Onset Alzheimer's Disease
Tom Van Lee, Ph.D.
Baylor College of Medicine
2017 Alzheimer's Association Research Fellowship (AARF)
Can a fruit fly model of Alzheimer's disease be used to identify novel genes and gene interactions involved in Alzheimer's?
A growing field in dementia research is the search for genes that promote Alzheimer's disease. To date, only 22 genes have been linked to an increased disease risk. However, the genetic mechanisms that underlie Alzheimer's likely involve a large number of genes and proteins interacting with one another in specific ways. Understanding these interactions is just as important as identifying the genes themselves.
For their grant, Tom Van Lee, Ph.D., and colleagues will search for novel Alzheimer's disease genes and gene interactions using a fruit fly model genetically engineered to develop abnormal tau (a hallmark protein in Alzheimer's). They will focus their project around three specific genes already linked to dementia risk. These genes produce proteins involved in adhesion, or the process by which cells interact and attach themselves to other cells. The three genes are also known to be part of a larger network that may, itself, become abnormal during Alzheimer's disease. Dr. Van Lee's team will use sophisticated genetic mapping and analytical techniques to determine whether this network contains other genes and proteins, as well as gene-protein interactions that may be associated with Alzheimer's brain changes. Specifically, they will look for molecules that promote a reduction in brain cell communication and the accumulation of harmful tau protein.
Dr. Van Lee's effort will shed new light on the role of genetic mechanisms in initiating and the progression of Alzheimer's disease. Such work could lead to novel strategies for determining Alzheimer's risk and for treating the disorder.