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2017 Grants - Plascencia Villa
Chronic Senescence-Associated Secretory Phenotype (SASP) in Neurodegeneration
Germán Plascencia Villa, Ph.D.
The University of Texas at San Antonio
San Antonio, Texas
2017 Alzheimer’s Association Research Fellowship to Promote Diversity (AARF-D)
Is Alzheimer’s disease due to the age dependent accumulation of brain cells undergoing cellular senescence?
Aging is the most important risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists, however, remain uncertain of the exact biological mechanisms that underlie the role of aging in dementia. In recent studies, researchers have found that the aging brain accumulates senescent cells — or cells that have abnormal secretion of proteins, cytokines, and other molecules called senescence-associated secretory phenotype (SASP). Cytokines, in particular, have been shown to promote the brain inflammation that is linked to brain cell death in Alzheimer’s.
For their grant, Germán Plascencia Villa, Ph.D., and colleagues plan to clarify the role of SASP in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Using brain cells grown in a dish, they will induce a state of SASP through several toxic mechanisms, including oxidative stress (or damage from exposure to toxic oxygen molecules). They will then use sophisticated imaging techniques to identify a specific pattern of the build-up of toxic substances. Such work will involve pinpointing the exact amount and location of these substances within the cells. Next, the researchers will determine whether this pattern of SASP toxicity also appears in the brain tissue of people who died at varying stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
The results of Dr. Plascencia Villa’s effort could help clarify how the process of aging becomes altered in Alzheimer’s disease and leads to brain cell degeneration. Identifying the aging molecules could also lead to improved methods of diagnosing and treating the disease at its earliest stages, when the benefits of treatment are most effective.