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2013 Grants - Tuszynski
MRI Guidance for BDNF Gene Delivery in Alzheimer's Disease
Mark Tuszynski, M.D., Ph.D.
University of California, San Diego
La Jolla, California
2013 Zenith Fellows Award
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a hormone-like molecule in the brain that increases the survival and health of nerve cells. Several studies have shown that BDNF reduces nerve cell death, improves nerve cell function and improves cognitive function in animal models of Alzheimer’s disease. Recent studies have shown that delivery of the BDNF gene to the brain can achieve the same results in animal models.
Mark H. Tuszynski, M.D., Ph.D., and colleagues have been involved in BDNF research for many years, including work on delivering the BDNF gene to the brain in animal models. They have proposed a study designed to pave the way for clinical trials of BDNF gene therapy in humans.
For the current grant, Dr. Tuszynski’s team will develop techniques for using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to guide the delivery of the BDNF gene to the regions of the brain in non-human primates where it is expected to be effective. Those regions are the entorhinal cortex and hippocampus, the regions affected in the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers will also study doses required, side effects and other important properties of the gene-delivery process. These studies are expected to address key issues necessary for beginning clinical trials of BDNF gene delivery in humans.