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2008 Grants - Echeverria Moran
Molecular Mechanisms Underlying the Neuroprotective Actions of Cotinine
Valentina Echeverria Moran, Ph.D.
Bay Pines Foundation, Inc.
Bay Pines, Florida
2008 New Investigator Research Grant
Studies have shown that nicotine may help protect brain cells against damage caused by Alzheimer's disease and other disorders. When the body breaks down nicotine, it produces a compound called cotinine. Some scientists believe that cotinine might also prevent disease-related nerve cell damage. However, this compound has not been investigated extensively by brain researchers.
In preliminary studies with cultured nerve cells, Valentina Echeverria Moran, Ph.D., and colleagues have found that cotinine prevents the build-up of the protein fragment beta-amyloid. This fragment is a key suspect in Alzheimer's disease. Moreover, other research teams have found that cotinine does not induce high blood pressure of other harmful nicotine-related side effects in animals.
Dr. Echeverria Moran's team plans to conduct a more extensive study of the safety and disease-fighting ability of cotinine treatment. For this effort, they will use mice genetically engineered to develop Alzheimer-like symptoms. The researchers will test their hypothesis that cotinine binds to beta-amyloid and prevents the formation of toxic amyloid clumps in the Alzheimer brain. They will also test the compound's ability to prevent cognitive decline in their mice.
Results of this research could lead to a better understanding of the biological mechanisms behind cognitive impairment. They could also lead to a novel and safe drug therapy for preventing Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.