Nov 14, 2006
Biology prof publishes Alzheimer's article
by Joanne Tang, News Editor
The human mind is a tricky thing — it is immensely complex, full of intricacies that have made scientists wonder and explore its depths for centuries. Unfortunately, one thing scientists have noticed is that sometimes, the brain fails to archive all the memories and facts humans accumulate over the years. For the last 100 years, scientists have, piece by piece, made progress in putting together the puzzle that is Alzheimer’s disease.
He and a colleague from the
“(The grant) allowed us to do the ground work,” DeWitt said.
When the National Institutes of Health gave DeWitt a four-year $122,000 grant, DeWitt was able to purchase a $40,000 fluorescent microscope and a bio-imaging machine that detects protein levels in samples and compares them. With the equipment, he was also able to do research at
The project initially began in a different direction. DeWitt was examining cell death, but as research progressed, DeWitt saw that the problem had more to do with cell transport. The research team then took off in this new direction.
This avenue was directly related to synapse loss, one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease. Synapse loss disrupts the transport of mitochondria, which provides energy to the cells.
If you (look at) spinal nerves, it has the main part of the cell in the spine but it has synapses far away,” DeWitt said.
He explained that the connection between the nerves and the axons in the brain are disrupted and this may be one of the causes of synapse loss.
The premise of the resulting article, “Peri-nuclear clustering of mitochondria is triggered during aluminum maltolate induced apoptosis,” is that failure transport mitochondria leads to synapse loss because mitochondria are not there to provide the energy the synapse needs. He said the defect might be the “inability to send mitochondria where it needs to be.”
“My focus had been to understand the fundamental triggers that lead to Alzheimer’s pathology,” he said. He said the research into Alzheimer’s pathology starts at the bottom. “If we don’t know the central problem, we don’t know how to fix it.”
Another benefit of being able to experiment at
“My experience here has taught me important lab techniques and principles and has been a great introduction and foundation for a research career,” said Townsend.
The work that DeWitt and his colleagues have done so far has contributed to the university in a magnitude of ways. One is that students in his biology classes are conducting experiments that are related to the Alzheimer’s work that DeWitt and his colleagues have done.
“Students have access to the research materials I had,” said DeWitt. He said this allowed students to be on a level field with other universities.
DeWitt is currently working on obtaining a grant from
There are still many mysteries and questions that have yet to be answered. With the research being conducted and the minds hard at work at unraveling the way this degenerative disease works, every day of progress is one step closer to helping those with Alzheimer’s disease.
Contact Joanne Tang at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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