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2008 Grants - Penzes
Modeling Synapse Dysgenesis-Linked Memory Impairment in Alzheimer's Disease
Peter Penzes, Ph.D.
Northwestern University, Chicago Campus
2008 Investigator-Initiated Research Grant
Alzheimer's disease is a progressive illness that gradually deprives people of their cognitive abilities and memory. One hallmark of Alzheimer's involves damage to synapses, the tiny channels through which brain cells communicate with one another. Synaptic damage is associated with Alzheimer-related memory loss. Many research teams are studying the biological mechanisms that may underlie this association.
Peter Penzes, Ph.D., and colleagues have engineered mice that lack a gene regulating the development of dendrites. Dendrites are branch-like parts of a nerve cell that promote cell-to-cell communication. Many important synapses are located on dendrites, so improper dendrite development is a likely cause of Alzheimer-related synaptic damage and memory deficits. In preliminary research, Dr. Penzes' team found that its engineered mice do indeed suffer such physical and cognitive problems.
For this study, the researchers hope to confirm that their dendrite-promoting gene prevents synaptic damage and memory loss in their mice. They also hope to learn more about the biological mechanisms underlying this process. Results of Dr. Penzes' effort could lead to novel genetic therapies for preventing or treating Alzheimer's disease.