NEW YORK, Aug. 11, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- The Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA) has awarded $518,391 in research grant funding to the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and One Mind, partners on a three-year study to examine the role of the brain's immune cells in the onset and progression of Alzheimer's disease. Scientists believe that gaining a better understanding of immune cells and inflammatory processes in the brain could be key to understanding Alzheimer's mechanisms.
Studies conducted at the Broad Institute and elsewhere have identified a new insight: The onset and progression of the disease appears to be driven by the brain's resident immune cells, the microglia. Research is showing how, with increasing age and specific genetic influences, microglia respond to amyloid-beta peptides in a particular way that causes inflammation. In turn, researchers hypothesize that this triggers microglia to inappropriately remove synapses in the brain. The excessive loss of synapses results in dementia.
"Emerging genetic evidence from the common later-onset form of Alzheimer's disease points to failures in how the microglia handle and remove toxic amyloid beta peptides," said Beth Stevens PhD, an Institute Member at the Broad Institute and a leading scientist in this new understanding of Alzheimer's. "These findings suggest that therapeutic interventions targeting microglia and other immune cells could be a way to combat Alzheimer's."
"We are excited by this innovative approach to Alzheimer's disease," said Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr., AFA President and CEO. "We understand there is much work to be done in the area of immunity and inflammatory processes of the brain and are hopeful that Dr. Stevens and her team will lead to identifying biomarkers for early detection and guide treatment. New strategies to understand this devastating disease are needed to address the growing Alzheimer's epidemic worldwide."
The Broad Institute will leverage new single-cell RNA sequencing tools that allow deep characterization of individual microglia and immune cells. This could lead to new biological insight and inform the identification of biomarkers used for early detection and monitoring of progression and therapies.
The key partner on this study is One Mind, a lived-experience-led brain health nonprofit, which is accelerating discoveries by funding and convening scientists in collaborative research for breakthroughs that patients can use.