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2017 Grants - Munoz Pinto
Modelling Inflammation in the Context of AD Using 3D Microenvironments
Dany Jair Munoz Pinto, Ph.D.
San Antonio, Texas
2017 Alzheimer’s Association Research Grant to Promote Diversity (AARG-D)
How do amyloid plaques form in the brain?
A key event in the development of Alzheimer’s disease is the formation of amyloid plaques in the brain. These structures consist of many copies of the protein fragment beta-amyloid, which clump together to form larger plaques. The conditions in the brain that lead to the formation of amyloid plaques are not well understood. One likely reason is that scientists lack accurate models of brain tissue in which to study the process of plaque formation.
Most studies of the brain are performed either in living animals or in nerve cells growing in laboratory dishes. The brains of living animals are too complex to study individual molecular processes, such as plaque formation. And cells growing in traditional laboratory dishes do not replicate many of the conditions found in the brain, in part because cells grown in the lab are usually grown on flat, 2-dimensional surfaces.
Dany Jair Munoz Pinto, Ph.D., and colleagues plan to develop a microscopic 3-dimensional structure composed of biological molecules that can be used to grow nerve cells in the laboratory. The researchers will use this structure to study the conditions in which beta-amyloid forms amyloid plaques. The 3-dimensional structure will mimic the structure of the brain more accurately than existing 2-dimensional surfaces.
Dr. Munoz Pinto and colleagues will grow stem cells on the structures. Stem cells can be controlled in the laboratory to develop into different types of cells, including nerve cells. Once the 3-dimensional structure of nerve cells is established, the researchers can add other types of cells, such as immune cells that induce inflammation, an important contributor to Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Munoz Pinto and colleagues can also control and change the environment surrounding the cells in order to study the conditions which favor the formation of amyloid plaque, including the role of inflammation.
This research will allow scientists to study the conditions that favor formation of amyloid plaque in the brain, and to study the interaction with inflammation. A better understanding of those processes may allow the development of treatments to slow or halt disease progression in the brain.