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2008 Grants - Jung
Deficits in Anandamide Signaling Underlie Cognitive Dysfunction in Alzheimer's Disease
Kwang Mook Jung, Ph.D.
University of California, Irvine
2008 Investigator-Initiated Research Grant
Endocannabinoids are naturally occurring brain chemicals similar to the active ingredient in marijuana. Research indicates that these chemicals can protect brain cells from injury and degeneration. Endocannabinoids may also affect the function of synapses, the tiny channels through which brain cells send and receive chemical messages. These findings suggest that alterations in the endocannabinoid system may inhibit the ability of brain cells to communicate with one another.
In previous research with autopsied brain tissue, Kwang Mook Jung, Ph.D., and colleagues found significantly less anandamine, a type of endocannabinoid, in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease than in healthy brains.
For this grant, the researchers hope to confirm their earlier result. They also plan to examine whether alterations in the endocannabinoid system affect levels of beta-amyloid in the brain. Beta-amyloid, a protein fragment, is a key suspect in Alzheimer's disease. This fragment is suspected of damaging synapses and disrupting cell-to-cell communication within the Alzheimer brain. Using cultured neurons, Dr. Jung's team will test whether an increase in beta-amyloid levels decreases the number of endocannabinoids. They will also test whether amyloid-induced damage to synapses is associated with disruptions in the endocannabinoid system.
Results of Dr. Jung's research could lead to lead to new therapeutic strategies for preventing and treating Alzheimer's disease.