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2007 Grant - Lazarov
The Effect of Environmental Enrichment on FAD-Linked Pathology
Orly Lazarov, Ph.D.
University of Illinois
2007 New Investigator Research Grant
Researchers have found that a person's risk for developing Alzheimer's disease is dependent on environmental factors as well as genetic factors. When an individual with the disease has inherited genes that cause its development, that individual is said to have familial Alzheimer's disease (FAD). This does not mean, however, that environmental factors are unimportant in that individual.
Dr. Orly Lazarov and colleagues have been studying whether environmental enrichment can slow or prevent the development of Alzheimer-like pathology in mice. For these studies, the researchers use a strain of mice with genetic characteristics that resemble Alzheimer's disease, including deposition of amyloid plaque in the brain, a key feature of Alzheimer pathology. Such mice are a good model of familial Alzheimer's disease. Dr. Lazarov and colleagues have found that environmental enrichment and physical activity reduced the amount of amyloid deposited in the brains of such mice and also reduced behavioral and functional impairment of the brain.
The researchers plan to continue and extend their studies by identifying the important features of an enriched environment that reduce the deposition of amyloid. They also plan to study the formation and development of new neurons in the brain of adult animals and to assess how environmental enrichment promotes such activity. These studies may lead to noninvasive and nonpharmacologic methods to delay or slow the development of Alzheimer's disease, even in those at risk of developing the disease because of their genetic background.