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2013 Grants - Nicoli
miR-107 Regulation of Neurovascular Permeability
Stefania Nicoli, Ph.D.
New Haven, Connecticut
2013 New Investigator Research Grant
Blood flow in the brain is vital for brain health, but the exchange of fluids and molecules from the blood to the brain is carefully controlled by the blood-brain barrier, a specialized layer of cells that line blood vessels in the brain. If brain cells are directly exposed to blood, it can lead to cell toxicity and degeneration. Some evidence suggests that damage to the blood-brain barrier may be involved in the initiation and progression of Alzheimer's disease.
Stefenia Nicoli, Ph.D., and colleagues have been studying the function of the blood-brain barrier and its damage during the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. In preliminary studies, they identified a molecular change in miR-107, a microribonucleic acid (microRNA) that disrupts the blood-brain barrier and allows molecules from the blood to flow into the brain. Dr. Nicoli and colleagues plan to study the mechanisms of this change.
In recent years, scientists have shown that microRNA perform a number of regulatory functions in cells. Dr. Stefani has found that miR-107 is normally found in support cells of the brain known as glial cells, which help to form and maintain the blood-brain barrier. The researchers plan to study how miR-107 performs these functions, and how loss of miR-107 affects the integrity of the blood-brain barrier and leads to nerve cell damage. These studies may help to identify new ways to slow or prevent damage to brain cells in Alzheimer's disease.