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2017 Grants - Mastroeni
Gender Effects on Identified Cell Population in Alzheimer’s disease
Diego F. Mastroeni, Ph.D.
Arizona State University
2017 Alzheimer’s Association Research Grant to Promote Diversity (AARG-D)
Do brain immune cells respond uniquely in females?
Two-thirds of individuals with Alzheimer’s are female, but the reason for this disparity is unknown. One of the characteristic features of Alzheimer’s disease is inflammation in the brain. Inflammation is mediated by the immune system, and the key immune cells in the brain are known as microglia. Microglia respond to numerous hormones, as well as to infections and dying cells. In addition, microglia secrete hormone-like molecules that trigger inflammation in the brain. These actions of hormones on microglia or secreted by microglia are thought to have important roles in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
Diego F. Mastroeni, Ph.D., and colleagues have been studying brain microglia and their roles in Alzheimer’s disease. Using a method called single-cell laser capture, the researchers are able to select and isolate individual microglial cells from brain tissue. Once selected, the cells can be studied using molecular biology methods to reveal what genes are active. In this way, Dr. Mastroeni and colleagues have shown that Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease change the pattern of active genes in microglia from different parts of the brain. This group will focus specifically on capturing these immune cells from female brains and compare to previous databases.
Dr. Mastroeni and colleagues have proposed to extend their studies of active genes in microglia isolated from the brains of females. Using samples of tissue from different brain regions, the researchers will use single-cell laser capture to isolate microglial cells. These cells will then be studied to determine which genes are active in microglia from healthy brains and from brains affected by Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease. Dr. Mastroeni’s team will focus on groups of genes involved in different aspects of microglial function, such as their responses to hormones and viruses, metabolism, and maintenance of nerve cells.
These studies will provide information about how the immune system in the female brain is responding specifically to different hormones and affecting the development of Alzheimer’s. The results may help scientists understand why female are more affected by Alzheimer’s and suggest specific treatments for women.