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2024 Alzheimer's Association Research Grant (AARG)

Lithiated gold nanoparticles as promising therapy for Alzheimer's disease

Could gold-covered molecules be used as a novel therapy for Alzheimer’s?

Roberto Piacentini, Ph.D.
Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore
Milan, Italy


One of the hallmark brain changes in Alzheimer’s is the progressive loss of nerve cells in the brain. One particular brain region called the hippocampus, which produces more new nerve cells than other regions in the brain, is particularly vulnerable to nerve cell loss in early Alzheimer’s. Nerve cell loss in the hippocampus is associated with learning and memory changes that occur during Alzheimer’s progression. Recent studies have shown that a protein called glycogen synthase kinase-3 beta (GSK-3 beta) becomes abnormally activated in Alzheimer’s and may inhibit the production and survival of new nerve cells in the hippocampus. As such, GSK-3 beta may be a novel therapeutic approach for treating Alzheimer’s.

Research Plan

For their project, Dr. Roberto Piacentini and the team will study how lithium, a molecule that inhibits GSK-3 beta activity may slow Alzheimer’s progression. They will do this using gold nanoparticles (tiny molecules that can carry and deliver therapeutic compounds such as lithium to the brain). They will use this technology to administer lithium in genetically engineered Alzheimer’s-like mice. Following lithium treatment, the researchers will measure behavioral and cognitive changes in these mice, as well as measure changes in new nerve cell production and activity. 


If successful, the results of this study could improve our understanding of the role of GSK3 in Alzheimer’s. It could also lead to a novel treatment for slowing the progression of the disease.

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