Maria Shriver’s Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement (WAM), which is committed to helping researchers discover why two out of every three patients with Alzheimer’s disease is a woman, has formed a unique partnership to fund research to understand the disparity in sex in Alzheimer’s disease with the UC Irvine Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders (UCI MIND), Orange County, California’s only state and federally funded Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC).
Today, the partnership announced the inaugural $100,000 recipients in a grant competition focused on the role of sex in Alzheimer’s disease, Drs. Sunil Gandhi and Mathew Blurton-Jones, who are both Associate Professors of Neurobiology and Behavior at UCI.
“We are working as quickly as possible to find answers to the mysteries of Alzheimer’s disease, particularly focusing on learning why women are so much more likely to be affected,” notes Shriver. “Our partnership with UCI MIND, which is focused on Alzheimer’s research, is an important step in reaching our goal.”
Gandhi and Blurton-Jones have proposed an exciting set of experiments that utilize cutting-edge technology in human stem cells, cell labeling, and in vivo microscopic imaging, to study the role of one specialized brain cell, microglia, in Alzheimer’s disease.
“Microglia are the brain’s primary immune cells and play important roles in the clearance of toxic proteins from the brain, including the protein beta-amyloid that accumulates in Alzheimer’s disease,” Blurton-Jones explains. “My team and I recently developed a technique to convert human stem cells into microglia.” By combining this approach with stem cells derived from patient’s skin, we can now study the impact of sex and genetics on human microglia.
Several of the recently identified genetic risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease point to microglia as primary culprits that contribute to Alzheimer’s disease risk. The funded project will use skin cells donated by male and female research participants at the UCI ADRC to investigate how male and female microglia may differ in their interactions in the Alzheimer’s brain.
Specifically, the human microglia will be injected into male and female mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease, and visualized using state-of-the-art in vivo microscopy techniques pioneered in the Gandhi lab.
“This grant allows us to immediately begin research that may prove vital to furthering the field’s understanding of microglia and their role in Alzheimer’s disease,” Gandhi adds. “We are grateful to Maria Shriver’s WAM and to UCI MIND for this opportunity to potentially make major strides toward understanding the role of sex in this devastating disease.”
The $100,000 award is anticipated to make the investigators highly competitive for much larger grants from the National Institutes of Health on this topic. The Initiative to fund research through a grant competition, which was the brainchild of Ms. Shriver and UCI MIND Director Dr. Joshua Grill, is meant to make UCI a major hub for research to understand sex and gender disparities in neurodegenerative disease. Funded through philanthropy, the goal is to offer at least annual competitions like this one.
About the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement (WAM)
The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement (WAM), a nonprofit organization founded by Maria Shriver, is committed to finding out why Alzheimer’s discriminates against women. WAM believes that answering the question of why women are disproportionately affected by Alzheimer’s, researchers will unlock the other mysteries surrounding this mind-blowing disease that will lead to a cure for all. To that end, the organization urges scientists to conduct women-based research and raise funds to support it. It also educates the public about the connection between brain health and lifestyle, and provides a platform for those caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s to share their stories and partner with organizations to provide caregiver respite grants. For more information, go to TheWomensAlzheimersMovement.org.
About the UC Irvine Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders (UCI MIND)
The UC Irvine Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders (UCI MIND) is internationally recognized for its research accomplishments in disorders of the brain, particularly those that are age-related. UCI MIND is the University’s center for aging and dementia research, with its faculty seeking to understand the causes leading to neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, frontotemporal dementia, Lewy body dementia, and Huntington’s disease.
For those suffering from age-related memory problems, its goal is to develop improved means for effective diagnosis and treatment and to provide help to families and caregivers. UCI MIND is home to one of 31 Alzheimer’s Disease Research Centers funded by the National Institute on Aging and one of 10 California Alzheimer’s Disease Centers funded by the California Department of Public Health. For more information, please visit www.mind.uci.edu.
This article was a courtesy release.