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2017 Grants - Willette
Genetic Variation in Sirtuins and Associations with Memory & Brain Atrophy
Auriel Willette, Ph.D.
Iowa State University of Science and Technology
2017 Alzheimer's Association Research Grant to Promote Diversity (AARG-D)
How do genetic variations in a family of proteins that regulate energy affect memory and brain function?
Sirtuins are a family of proteins involved in the regulation of energy production by cells. They are also important for memory formation in the brain, suggesting that memory formation and energy production in nerve cells are related. Currently there are 7 known members of the sirtuin family, coded by 7 different genes.
In addition to the known sirtuin genes, each of the genes can have variations within different people. Such variations may alter the function of the sirtuin proteins in ways that can affect energy production and memory formation.
Auriel Willette, Ph.D., and colleagues plan to study the genetic code for sirtuin genes and assess how those genetic codes and variations are related to brain function. The researchers will take advantage of data already available from more than 9600 people who participated in earlier studies of brain health and Alzheimer's disease. Some of those participants were healthy adults and others had Alzheimer's disease at various stages. The information available from these participants includes genetic information, brain imaging, and tests of brain function.
Dr. Willette's team plans to study how the genetic codes for sirtuin genes are related to memory, brain structure, and brain function. The goal of this research is to identify specific variations in sirtuin genes that are associated with consistently better or consistently worse brain function in healthy people or in people with Alzheimer's disease.
This study will help scientists identify specific genetic variations that are associated with memory and brain function in healthy people and in people with Alzheimer's disease. This information may lead to better diagnostics and to develop treatments that can help the brain maintain optimal function during aging.