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2017 Grants - Olah
Innate Immune Cells in Healthy Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease
Marta Olah, Ph.D.
New York, New York
2017 Alzheimer’s Association Research Fellowship (AARF)
How do different types of immune cells contribute to brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease?
Increasing evidence suggests that the immune system may play an important role in Alzheimer’s disease. The most common immune cells in the brain are known as microglia. However, another type of immune cell, known as monocytes, which circulate throughout the body, can also enter the brain where they may influence disease development and progression. Microglia and monocytes can have both beneficial and harmful effects on the brain, but how their function is regulated is not well understood.
Marta Olah, Ph.D., will study microglia and monocytes collected from participants of the Rush Memory and Aging Project. They will determine if there are genetic and functional differences in the immune cells from healthy older individuals compared to individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. In the past it has been difficult to study human microglia because of limitations in how many cells could be isolated and collected from brain tissue samples. Dr. Olah’s lab has optimized a method for collecting large numbers of human microglia that will allow them study the cells in greater detail than has been previously possible. The researchers hope to identify the characteristics of microglia and monocytes that are related to the accumulation of plaques and tangles in the brain and memory decline.
The results of this work could shed new light on the role that different types of immune cells play in the healthy brain and in Alzheimer’s disease. A better understanding of these processes could help scientists develop new treatments aimed at regulating the function of immune cells as a way to prevent or treat Alzheimer’s disease.