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2009 Grants - Alonso
Alejandro del-Carmen Alonso, Ph.D.
College of Staten Island, City College of New York
New York, New York
2009 New Investigator Research Grant
Tau is a protein that is an important component of the nerve cell "skeleton," helping to maintain cell structure. In Alzheimer's disease, tau becomes chemically modified by the addition of abnormal amounts of phosphate groups (hyperphosphorylation). This alteration of tau causes it to malfunction, leading to the formation of neurofibrillary tangles, a hallmark of Alzheimer pathology.
It is not known whether hyperphosphorylation of tau is a cause of neurodegeneration during Alzheimer's disease; and if it is a cause, the mechanisms leading to degeneration are not well understood. Alejandro del-Carmen Alonso, Ph.D. and colleagues plan to study the relationship between tau hyperphosphorylation and neurodegeneration. They will perform these studies using mice that have been genetically altered so that the researchers can control tau phosphorylation. By inducing tau phosphorylation at different times, the researchers will study how this change affects nerve cell structure and survival, brain function and the formation of beta-amyloid—a protein fragment that aggregates to form amyloid plaques, another hallmark of Alzheimer pathology.
These experiments will improve our understanding of whether tau hyperphosphorylation causes neurodegeneration, and the mechanisms leading to this effect. This knowledge about the basic mechanisms of Alzheimer's disease may provide important clues about ways to prevent or slow development of the disease.