Researchers receive $2.7 million MERIT award to explore uncharted territory in the aging female brain

Researchers at the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center for Innovation in Brain Science were awarded a $2.7 million MERIT award from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging to continue work on the impact of estrogen as a master regulator of the brain’s bioenergetic system, which promotes glucose transport and metabolism and energy generation.

The aging transition of menopause, unique to women, is a process that dismantles both reproductive ability and, potentially, the bioenergetic capacity in the brain. Understanding how estrogen acts to promote and sustain the brain’s energy-producing system is critical to revealing changes that can increase the risk of age-associated neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease in postmenopausal women.

From a discovery perspective, this research is unique in exploring the mechanisms underlying nuclear and mitochondrial gene expression in the aging female brain. By determining the mechanisms underlying the systematic dismantling of the bioenergetic system, we have the potential to inform clinical interventions to prevent or delay loss of estrogenic control and better understand patterns of how the brain ages.”

Roberta Diaz Brinton, PhD, director of the Center for Innovation in Brain Science, Regents Professor and principal investigator on the grant

MERIT awards, initiated by the National Institute on Aging and the National Advisory Council on Aging, provide long-term support to outstanding, experienced investigators. Dr. Brinton, who is a member of the BIO5 Institute, received the initial five-year award of $1.5 million in 2017. Early analyses of preliminary data provided compelling evidence for estrogen as a systems biology metabolic regulator in the brain.

Support provided by the MERIT award will allow Dr. Brinton to continue to lead research to determine how estrogen integrates bioenergetic responses and monitors energetic demand and performance.

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