Keck neuroscientists make Alzheimer’s breakthrough

first_imgNeuroscientists at the Keck School of Medicine of USC may have revealed a new method to detect early onset Alzheimer’s disease by using brain scans to indicate abnormalities in blood vessels.By using high resolution imaging of the brain, USC researchers have found evidence to prove that older age offsets a more permeable blood-brain barrier, which may lead to various negative effects in the hippocampus.The study also suggested using brain scans to detect changes that are characteristic of Alzheimer’s in the blood vessels of the hippocampus. Early detection may prove to be pivotal in determining disease progression and quality of life since it could slow the loss of memory, cognition and learning.These findings may carry important developments in the diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s on a large scale since the brain disease affects around 5.2 million people in the United States. Alzheimer’s is the most common degenerative disease, yet, reasons why damages to memories, thought process and behavior occur are still largely unclear.Dr. Berislav Zlokovic, the director of the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute, currently leads the project. Zlokovic is a recognized leader in Alzheimer’s disease and stroke research, and has published more than 250 articles on the subject.“My colleagues and I developed an assay that can scan all small regions of the brain; that was an advanced approach,” Zlokovic said. “We were able to screen throughout the entire brain and see changes in different brain regions.”Zlokovic explained how they scanned a patient’s brain after intravenously injecting the patient with tracer molecules. The researchers would then take profiles of the arteries that provide supplies to the brain and measure the tracer concentration.“Relating the concentration in the brain and concentration in blood could then quantitatively indicate if the results were normal or if the results meant leakage,” Zlokovic said.The blood-brain barrier had more permeability in the hippocampus for patients with dementia, in comparison to those without the disease. Individuals who have mild dementia also had 30 percent more albumin, a blood protein, in their cerebrospinal fluid, which further emphasized a leaky blood-brain barrier. In total, the study contained 64 human subjects who were recruited by the USC Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.The research involved collaboration among multiple departments within USC as well as outside USC like the Huntington Medical Research Institute. Funding have consisted of grants from the Zilkha Institute and various institutes within the National Institutes of Health  as well as support from other investigatorsZlokovic’s discussed the details regarding the framework for his research.“We are trying to apply this assay for people who are cognitively normal without dementia but have the genetic risk to develop Alzheimer’s disease,” Zlokovic explained.“The interest exists for specifically two groups of people: people with sporadic Alzheimer’s Disease, meaning they have the genes for late onset Alzheimer’s that may or may not have presented symptoms, and familial Alzheimer’s Disease, meaning they have early onset Alzheimer’s that began at an unusually young age,” Zlokovic said.Zlokovic hopes that his findings will help detect Alzheimer’s disease very early on in, order to maximize the effectiveness of treatments and allow more research opportunities to further understanding of the disease.Fahvyon Jimenez, a junior majoring in business, has been a student worker at the Zilkha Institute for three years. Though he is not involved in the research lab itself, he expressed confidence about the direction the project will take in the future.[Dr. Zlokovic’s] lab is one of the most confident labs here. The hippocampus is super important as it is very much responsible for reorganizing thoughts we have throughout the day and transferring short term memory into long term memory,” Jimenez said, “The researchers are incredibly talented and shockingly charismatic. Everyone is energetic and excited about what they do.”last_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *