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2022 Alzheimer's Association Research Fellowship to Promote Diversity (AARF-D)

Metabolic Trajectories of Alzheimer’s Disease Progression

Can changes in how the body produces energy help predict Alzheimer’s?

Richa Batra, Ph.D.
Weill Medical College of Cornell University
Ithica, NY - United States



Background

Metabolism is a process during which the body breaks down sugar into energy. During this process, the body produces compounds called metabolites, which help the body maintain normal functions. In the brain, metabolites help maintain both nerve cell energy levels and connections between nerve cells, which in turn promote memory and other cognitive functions. Certain metabolites may become dysfunctional in Alzheimer’s and contribute to dementia-related cognitive decline. It is unknown how metabolite activity and dementia risk are related.

Research Plan

Dr. Richa Batra and colleagues will study metabolite dysfunction in Alzheimer’s by using  brain scans, blood tests and cognitive data from about 1,500 older individuals who have Alzheimer’s, mild cognitive impairment (MCI, a condition of subtle memory loss that may precede Alzheimer’s), or no cognitive impairment. The researchers will measure and assess how specific metabolites in the blood may be linked to cognitive decline and dementia-related brain changes over time. They will then determine whether certain patterns (or signatures) of metabolite changes contribute to Alzheimer’s progression. Finally, with the help of computer science techniques, the researchers will develop a method of using metabolic signatures to predict how a particular individual’s Alzheimer’s-related brain changes may have progressed.   

Impact

Results from this project could refine our understanding of how metabolic changes relate to different stages of Alzheimer’s, even at the earliest stages. They could also lead to a novel method of detecting Alzheimer’s progression through a simple blood test.

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