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2017 Grants - Butterick
Microglial Fatty Acid Signaling in Alzheimer’s Disease
Tammy Butterick, Ph.D.
Minnesota Veterans Medical Research & Education Foundation
2017 Alzheimer’s Association Research Grant to Promote Diversity (AARG-D)
How does a high-fat diet contribute to brain inflammation and the risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease?
Recent studies suggest that midlife obesity is associated with increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Diets high in saturated fat have been shown to promote increased brain inflammation due to activation of brain immune cells called microglia. It is possible that brain inflammation is a link between high fat diets and Alzheimer’s risk, but more research is needed to better understand the underlying mechanisms.
Tammy Butterick, Ph.D., and colleagues have previously shown that molecules called saturated fatty acids (associated with a high-fat diet) can trigger microglia to release inflammatory factors. For their current studies, the researchers will expose microglia growing in laboratory dishes to saturated fatty acids (SFAs) and beta-amyloid, the protein fragment that forms amyloid plaques in the Alzheimer’s brain. They hypothesize that SFAs and beta-amyloid act synergistically to activate microglia and promote brain inflammation. The researchers plan to identify the pathways involved and then see if blocking them can reduce brain inflammation and memory decline in Alzheimer’s-like mice. They will also study mice fed a high-SFA diet versus a low-SFA diet to determine how this affects the progression of brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
The results of these studies could provide new information on how diet may impact brain inflammation and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. A better understanding of these mechanisms can help scientists design new treatments or suggest lifestyle changes to modulate microglia activation as a potential therapy to help slow or prevent Alzheimer’s disease.