UAMS researchers make advances in study of Alzheimer’s


An estimated 5.7 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease, according to the Alzheimer's Association.

The cause is still not completely understood, but researchers at UAMS are making advances. That's this week's UAMS MedCheck.

The risk for Alzheimer's disease increases by 12 to 15 times for people who have two

copies of a certain protein found in the body, called Apolipoprotein E, more commonly known as ApoE.

"The neuropathologist who had been examining sections from people's brains who had Alzheimer's disease found there was a group of those individuals who had noticeable pathology," explained Dr. Sue Griffin, an internationally known Alzheimer’s disease researcher at UAMS. "And having more pathology means they had more plaques and tangles."

Paul Parcon, a UAMS graduate student working with Griffin, had a theory.

"This very likely could be a result of those individuals not being able to clear spent or already used proteins recycle them for reuse for building new proteins from the amino acids," Griffin said.

They began looking at what could be causing that failure, specifically looking at ApoE4, believing that ApoE4 was competing with the transcription factor.

They turned to Dr. Meenakshisundaram Balasubramaniam, a computational biologist, to illustrate what was happening on the molecular level.

"We not only predicted the ApoE4 using computational biology but also we proved using our experimental approach in the same paper," Dr. Balasubramaniam said.

"Having narrowed down the mechanism or a mechanism for how this works could lead drug design in upregulating the autophagy process that gets rid of the proteins that are building up in Alzheimer’s disease," Parcon said.

These findings were published in February in Alzheimer's and Dementia, the Journal of the Alzheimer's Association.

To learn more about Alzheimer's and its impacts, visit the Broyles Foundation website.

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