Researchers at Mayo Clinic in Florida, the University of Florida in Gainesville, and the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle have received a $7.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to take a new and more expanded approach to identifying drug targets to treat and possibly prevent Alzheimer's disease.
The investigators are working together to understand the role that innate immunity - the body's defense system - plays in Alzheimer's disease, a disorder of dementia that is rapidly increasing as the population ages.
The teams are focused on uncovering and manipulating the key molecular players in innate immunity with an ultimate goal of developing novel therapies for Alzheimer's disease, says neurologist and neuroscientist Nilufer Ertekin-Taner, M.D., Ph.D., one of the grant's two principal investigators from Mayo Clinic in Florida. The other is Steven Younkin, M.D., Ph.D.
"When activated, human innate immunity results in inflammation, and previous research on this response to development of Alzheimer's disease has been contradictory because no one has yet looked at the whole picture of this effect over time," says Dr. Ertekin-Taner. "It may be that an initial inflammatory response is beneficial, perhaps even protective, but a lengthy response to toxic proteins acts to kill healthy neurons.
"Our goal is to understand exactly if and when an innate immune response is good, and when it is bad, and to identify drug targets that enhance this protective effect and shut down the destructive side of this inflammation."
To do that, the study's leaders - which include Todd Golde, M.D., Ph.D., director for Translational Research in Neurodegenerative Disease at the University of Florida, and Nathan Price, Ph.D., from the Institute for Systems Biology - have designed a systems level approach.