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2014 Grants - Taheri
Contribution of BBB Pathologies to Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia
Saeid Taheri, Ph.D.
Medical University of South Carolina
Charleston, South Carolina
2014 Investigator-Initiated Research Grant: Role of Vascular Metabolic Risk Factors in the Pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementia
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disorder that likely begins decades before clinical symptoms appear. Mild forms of cognitive impairment — which include subtle memory loss — may lead to an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias later in life. There is a need to better understand the early brain changes that may contribute to different types of cognitive impairment.
In preliminary research, Saeid Taheri, Ph.D., and colleagues used newly refined magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques to study the brains of older people with cognitive impairment. They found that these people showed damage to the blood-brain barrier (BBB), a specialized structure that surrounds the brain and acts as a “filter” to prevent harmful, blood-borne substances from entering the brain while allowing important nutrients to enter. They also found that with this damage to the BBB, brain blood vessel function had been compromised. Both BBB damage and vascular dysfunction have been linked to an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
For their current study, Dr. Taheri and colleagues will use their MRI technique to assess BBB and brain blood vessel damage in individuals with cognitive impairment. They will also assess the participants for other dementia-related brain changes, including amyloid plaques and tau neurofibrillary tangles formation, both hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers will then use this data to develop a system for “classifying” different types of cognitive impairment relative to the BBB and blood vessel damage. Their system may provide a framework to distinguish people with cognitive impairment and vascular problems from those with cognitive impairment and no vascular problems. Ultimately, such work may facilitate the process of diagnosing people at risk of Alzheimer’s disease before clinical symptoms appear.