Alzheimer’s disease

Role of presenilin in dendritic spine formation
2007 Seed Grant
Gopal Thinakaran, Ph.D.
The University of Chicago

Alzheimer’s disease, the major cause of dementia in the elderly, affects over 5 million Americans.  It is estimated that this devastating disorder strikes someone in America every 72 seconds.  Unless an effective treatment or a cure is discovered, it is estimated that 7.7 million Americans will have the disease by 2030, and the numbers could climb to as high as 16 million by 2050.  There is a pressing need to develop new therapies for Alzheimer’s disease.  Dr. Gopal Thinakaran, Department of Neurobiology, will focus on a protein that is mutated in early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, Presenilin 1.  Dr. Thinakaran’s research proposal involves the characterization of mice where human Alzheimer’s disease causing mutation has been introduced into mouse Presenilin 1 protein.  His hypothesis is that Alzheimer’s disease causing mutations in Presenilin 1 lead to cognitive problems by affecting the basic synaptic machinery, especially the remodeling of synaptic connectivity in the neuronal network, which is critical for the dynamic process of learning and memory.  Dr. Thinakaran’s studies will provide important information to advance treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.

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