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2013 Grants - Hoeffer
The Toxic Effect of Pathological Tau on Synaptic Plasticity
Charles A. Hoeffer, Ph.D.
New York University School of Medicine
New York, New York
2013 Mentored New Investigator Research Grant to Promote Diversity
Tau is a protein that works to maintain the structure of nerve cells and aid in the transport of nutrients throughout cells. In Alzheimer's disease and some related disorders, tau forms abnormal structures inside nerve cells called neurofibrillary tangles. These structures are thought to disrupt the transport of nutrients, possibly disrupting other cell functions and leading to cell death.
One important function of nerve cells is synaptic transmission, the process by which the cells send rapid signals to other nerve cells, giving the nervous system many of its unique capabilities. Synaptic plasticity occurs when the efficiency of synaptic transmission changes; it is thought to be one of the underpinnings of learning and memory.
Charles A. Hoeffer, Ph.D. and colleagues have proposed to study how neurofibrillary tangles affect synaptic plasticity. They have observed that certain types of nerve cells are vulnerable to cell death when neurofibrillary tangles form. These cells participate in a part of the brain that shows a well-studied form of synaptic plasticity. Using mice that have been genetically altered to have neurofibrillary tangles caused by abnormal tau, the researchers plan to study how those changes affect synaptic plasticity. They will also study an antibody that binds to neurofibrillary tangles to determine if it can reduce the toxic effects on synaptic transmission and synaptic plasticity. These studies will improve our understanding of how molecular changes in Alzheimer's disease lead to a decline in normal brain activity and function.