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2011 Grants - Smalheiser
Plasma Small RNAs as Biomarkers for Alzheimer's Disease
Neil Smalheiser, M.D., Ph.D.
University of Illinois at Chicago
2011 Investigator-Initiated Research Grant
Ribonucleic acids (RNAs) are polymeric molecules with a number of important functions within cells. In recent years, studies have found evidence that one type of RNA known as microRNA is present in blood plasma. Plasma is the fluid in which particulate components of the blood are suspended. Specific microRNAs may be indicators of cancer, stroke, or other conditions. Within cells of the brain, specific microRNAs have been implicated in neurodegenerative diseases, but it is not known whether RNAs in blood plasma can be used to detect neurodegenerative disease.
Neil Smalheiser, M.D., Ph.D. and colleagues are studying microRNAs and other forms of RNA in blood and blood plasma to determine if any specific RNAs can be used to detect or measure neurodegenerative disease in the brain. They will begin by studying RNAs in different parts of plasma separated by standard laboratory techniques.
With the information from this initial study, Dr. Smalheiser and colleagues will measure RNAs in plasma collected from a group of individuals participating in an established study of Alzheimer's disease progression, some of whom developed the disease and some of whom did not. They will determine if the levels of any specific RNAs are associated with development of disease, or with the presence of risk factors such as age or lifestyle factors. These studies may provide initial evidence for the use of specific RNAs to detect early stages of neurodegenerative disease, possibly paving the way for larger clinical trials for early detection of Alzheimer's disease.