My lab studies the cellular and molecular mechanisms of Alzheimer’s disease, the most common cause of dementia in the elderly. Currently more than 5.5 million people are affected in the USA and without there may be more than 100 million cases worldwide by 2030. The disease is marked by the appearance of insoluble deposits of Aβ peptide and neurons that contain neurofibrillary tangles. A peculiar aspect of this pathology is the appearance of aberrant blood vessels in between those deposits, so my lab developed a zebrafish model to study how Aβ affects blood vessel branching in the brain. We have shown that high levels of Aβ cause blood vessels in the brain and retina to produce more branches, and we currently elucidating the underlying molecular mechanisms. In a related studies, it was nearly a decade ago that my lab showed that Aβ-specific T cells could provide beneficial effects in a mouse model for Alzheimer’s disease. In the past 5 year we have translated those findings to the clinic by developing an early diagnostic test for Alzheimer’s disease that involves key immune responses that happen early in the disease. Using 20 cc of whole blood we stimulate Aβ-specific T cells using special immune cells that we differentiate and modify from pluripotent stem cells. Research in my lab is generously supported by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
Image of methods used for Alzheimer’s blood test