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2015 Grants - Barmada
RNA Dysregulation in Frontotemporal Dementia
Sami Barmada, M.D., Ph.D.
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, Michigan
2015 New Investigator Research Grant
Does abnormal processing of RNA molecules contribute to nerve cell death in frontotemporal dementia?
Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is a neurodegenerative disease characterized by early-onset dementia with changes in personality and emotions. It gets its name from the fact that it affects the front and side (temporal) regions of the brain. Unfortunately, frontotemporal dementia is frequently misdiagnosed and the underlying causes of the disease are not understood.
Recent research suggests that genetic variations that disrupt the processing of a very important biological molecule called ribonucleic acid (RNA) may contribute to the development of FTD. Ribonucleic acid carries the instructions to make the proteins needed for normal cell function. As such, the amount and type of RNA in each cell is highly regulated and disruption of this process can have negative consequences.
Dr. Barmada and colleagues hypothesize that people with frontotemporal dementia may have defects in regulating the production and degradation of RNA. This dysregulation would very likely disrupt normal cellular processes, which may cause nerve cell death and ultimately loss of brain function. To better understand the RNA processing defects, the researchers plan to use novel technologies that will allow them to track how RNA molecules are created and degraded in living nerve cells derived from people with frontotemporal dementia.
Frontotemporal dementia is the second most common cause of dementia in people younger than 65 years, yet little is known about the biological mechanisms underlying the disease. The studies by Dr. Barmada and colleagues will shed new light on how RNA processing defects may lead to nerve cell death. Such information is a pivotal step toward developing more effective therapies for frontotemporal dementia.