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2017 Grants - Murray
Molecular Underpinnings of Clinical and Neuropathologic Heterogeneity in AD
Melissa Erin Murray, Ph.D.
Mayo Clinic Jacksonville
2017 Alzheimer’s Association Research Grant (AARG)
Why do the brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease differ across individuals?
Although Alzheimer’s disease is commonly thought to be a single disease, there is extensive and growing evidence that that are several different forms of the disease. For example, a brain region known as the hippocampus has long been known to be severely affected in many people with Alzheimer’s disease. However, autopsy studies of brain tissue from people affected by the disease have shown that the hippocampus is only mildly affected in some people. Similar results have been found in other brain regions, whereby certain regions are more strongly affected in some people than others.
Melissa Erin Murray, Ph.D., and colleagues have been studying variations in the effects of Alzheimer’s disease on the brain using autopsy brain specimens. They have developed preliminary evidence of at least three specific patterns of damage to the brain in Alzheimer’s disease, suggesting at least three different forms of the disease. The researchers have proposed extending their study to obtain more evidence and to specifically explore how different forms of Alzheimer’s disease affect the hippocampus.
Importantly, Dr. Murray and colleagues have obtained autopsy specimens from people who had Alzheimer’s disease but did not have other forms of neurodegeneration. Using this approach is important because other forms of neurodegeneration can complicate the interpretation of results. By using brain specimens from cases of “pure” Alzheimer’s disease, the researchers should be able to define clear distinctions between different forms of the disease.
The results of this study will allow scientists to more clearly define the forms of Alzheimer’s disease in subsequent studies. The ability to distinguish the different forms of Alzheimer’s could greatly enhance the pace of scientific progress toward better detection and treatment.