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2023 Alzheimer's Association Research Fellowship to Promote Diversity (AARF-D)

Vascular cognitive impairment in diabetes: mechanisms and intervention

How does diabetes contribute to cognitive impairment in Alzheimer’s? 

Kareem Abdelsaid, Ph.D.
Medical University of South Carolina
Charleston, SC - United States


As obesity prevalence increases worldwide, there are also increases in the consequences for overall health related to obesity. Obesity is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, metabolic disorders, and vascular (blood vessel) disorders which impact multiple systems in the body, including the brain, and may increase one’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s. However, the mechanisms by which diabetes and the metabolic changes related to diabetes contribute to cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s are unknown. 

Dr. Kareem Abdelsaid and colleagues believe that a process called epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT), where cells start to behave like stem cells, may hold the key to understanding how diabetes increases one’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

Research Plan

Dr. Abdelsaid and the team will use genetically engineered rats who develop diabetes for their studies. They will measure cognitive function in these rats as they age and compare their behavior, as well as changes in metabolism, to age-matched rats without diabetes. They will also measure markers for EMT in the brains of these rats. Finally, the researchers will study whether stopping the way brain cells use specific nutrients can prevent EMT and cognitive decline in older genetically engineered diabetic rats. 


The results of this study may help improve our understanding of how diabetes is linked to Alzheimer’s risk in older individuals. These findings may also inform future strategies for prevention of Alzheimer’s.

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