Tag Archives: Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s Disease and the Cerebellum’s Unlikely Partnership

Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible neurodegenerative disorder and is characterized by progressive impairment of cognitive and memory functions. It is also the leading form of dementia, a syndrome that includes deterioration in memory, thinking, behavior and the ability to perform everyday activities, and primarily affects elderly people. According to the study Forecasting the global burden

A Tale of Two Moons: Alzheimer’s and Stem Cell breakthroughs

When I woke up this morning, having failed to crystallize on paper my scientific mulling over the weekend, I was prepared to write about the ongoing, inherent failure of science to always produce the ‘right’ answers to big questions. For decades, biologists have struggled with low rates of replication of important findings. Meta-analyses of the literature on cancer drug screening, the identity of cancer cell lines, the efficacy of ADHD drugs, the replicability of genetic association studies on disease, and even the choice of statistical tests used in major journals to prove the importance of scientific claims, have broadly demonstrated that while science eventually finds the right answers, a whole slew of initial claims (which are the most widely reported by the media due to their novelty) eventually turn out to be false.
blue moon

Despite all this, scientists continue to slave away at the bench, hopeful that they might someday make a worthwhile contribution to the body of human knowledge. Moreover, the public gets its science information from such watered-down (but inspiring) ventures as I F*cking Love Science, but as a recent piece by John Skylar beautifully argued, our society appears to have a superficial love for pretty scientific pictures, as opposed to a true appreciation of the time, effort, and funding required to make this research happen. I felt uninspired, frustrated, and tormented by the conclusions these trains of thought led me to. Science is underfunded, often wrong, and even disbelieving of itself. And here I am, halfway through my PhD program, insanely determined to stay the course.

But all it took was two groundbreaking studies in fields that I am keenly interested in to fan the flames of my scientific passion and remind me why I do this. Bench science might resemble cooking, but as all scientists know, even the most methodical bench science only results in haute cuisine once in a blue moon. Nevertheless, we scientists live for these blue moons. Here are two recent, nearly coincident blue moons that reminded me why I f*cking love science.

A beachhead in the war on Alzheimer’s disease

Hello there, BSR readers; it’s good to be back. It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything—that’s because I’ve recently made some pretty big life transitions. After graduating from the Psychology Department last May, I was lucky enough to land a job at Stanford Research International. While I miss being able to protest between classes, and study in trees, and though I often find myself overwhelmed with Silicon Valley preppies, it has been a wonderful experience thus far. I am currently participating in wonderful and novel Alzheimer’s research in Joseph Rogers’s laboratory of the neurobiology of aging. I want to share with you the science that has motivated me.

Before we talk cures, I need to first explain the disease itself. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United Sates and affects an estimated 5.4 million Americans. AD most often occurs later in life. It is characterized by progressive deterioration of brain function, and ultimately leads to death. On a cellular level, AD is associated with loss of neurons and synaptic connections within the cerebral cortex. AD patients also experience atrophy of many brain regions including the amygdala (which is dedicated to management of basic emotions), the frontal lobe (the part of the brain responsible for logic and behavior regulation), and the hippocampus (which aids memory).

Regardless of the large body of research that has been dedicated to AD, and despite the well-understood neuropathology of this disease, the root cause of this disorder remains obscure. The most widely accepted hypothesis for the cause of AD is the amyloid hypothesis, which postulates that the primary cause stems from deposits of the peptide amyloid beta (Abeta) within the brain. Abeta is a multifunctional protein that facilitates many processes (including kinase activation and regulation of cholesterol transport). However, Abeta is highly elevated in AD patients, causing the protein to form aggregates (called plaques) within the brain. In large enough amounts, these plaques initiate the damage to neurons.