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2015 Grants - Rodriguez-Ortiz
Astrocyte-Enriched miR181 Impact on Neuronal Plasticity and Memory in Alzheimer’s Disease
Carlos Rodriguez-Ortiz, Ph.D.
University of California, Merced
2015 Mentored New Investigator Research Grant to Promote Diversity
Do increased levels of the molecule miR181 lead to impaired nerve cell function and memory decline in Alzheimer’s disease?
Neuronal plasticity refers to the brain’s ability to adjust and regulate the communication between the nerve cells critical for learning and memory. Neuronal plasticity is impaired in Alzheimer’s disease. Uncovering the biological details of this impairment will help provide new knowledge about how the disease progresses, explain certain symptoms, and could help inform the future development of Alzheimer’s treatments. Previous research using Alzheimer’s-like mice and brain cells grown in a laboratory dish found that high levels of miR181, a molecule that controls the activity of certain genes, inhibits proteins that are important for neuronal plasticity. This finding suggests that miR181 may inhibit processes needed for normal brain function, which could lead to memory problems in Alzheimer’s disease.
Carlos Rodriguez-Ortiz, Ph.D., and colleagues plan to comprehensively explore the role of miR181 in neuronal plasticity and Alzheimer’s disease. They will determine if levels of miR181 and proteins involved in neuronal plasticity are altered in brain tissue from people who had Alzheimer’s disease. They will also examine the molecular mechanisms by which beta-amyloid, a protein fragment implicated in Alzheimer’s disease, increases miR181 production. These molecular mechanisms will be studied in nerve cells and in another type of brain cell called astrocytes which are important for supporting the health and function of nerve cells. Finally, the researchers will examine how altering the levels of miR181 in the brains of mice impacts their memory abilities.
These experiments will help scientists understand the role of miR181 in Alzheimer’s disease, and will help shed new light on the molecular chain of events that lead to diminished neuronal function and memory decline. This research may also uncover useful biological markers for the disease, as well as molecules that may be targets for the development of future therapies.