As a neurodegenerative disease, Alzheimer’s is known for damaging neurons, which are the nerve cells of the brain. Neurons depend on oxygen and glucose carried through the brain’s blood vessels, or vascular system. Neurons' energy needs are great because the brain consumes more energy than any other human organ, up to 20 percent of the body's total supply.
The brain relies heavily on an intricately laced system of arteries, veins, and capillaries that, in adult brains, stretches an estimated 100 miles in length. For protection, the brain’s circulatory system is sealed off from that of the rest of the body by a special blood-brain barrier that helps prevent bacteria, viruses, and other toxic substances from entering.
Together, the brain’s vascular system and protective barrier are important to Alzheimer’s research because it is key to keeping neurons healthy.
BrightFocus-funded projects are studying capillary stalling in Alzheimer’s disease, which reduces brain blood flow and increases the risk for dementia. Evidence from mice suggests it’s not driven by diet and obesity alone, and a targeted treatment could help.
Explore More of Our 360° Approach
- Tangling with Tau
- Battling Amyloid Beta
- Immunity and Inflammation
- Biology of APO E and Lipids
- Cell Death
- New Approaches
Genes are the “master blueprint” that instructs our cells to make unique proteins which in turn build, operate, and repair human tissue. Humans have an estimated 24,000 genes along our 23 matched pairs of chromosomes (46 in all), and “genomics” refers to the field that studies all of them at once.
A biological marker (biomarker) is a measurable substance in an organism whose presence is indicative of some phenomenon such as disease or infection. Biomarkers can help doctors and scientists diagnose diseases and health conditions, find health risks in a person, monitor responses to treatment, and see how a person's disease or health condition changes over time.
Tangling with Tau
Tau is a small protein with a short name but a large reputation because of its association with multiple brain diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The tau protein is predominantly found in brain cells (neurons).
Battling Amyloid Beta
There are many versions of amyloid protein in the human body, and most serve a useful role. One of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the accumulation of amyloid plaques (abnormally configured proteins) between nerve cells (neurons) in the brain.
Immunity and Inflammation
One theory about Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is that it may be triggered, in part, by a breakdown in the brain’s immune system.
Biology of APO E and Lipids
Alzheimer's disease (AD). Its primary function is to regulate a class of proteins involved in the metabolism of fats (lipids) in the body. However, APOE has several common variants (or "alleles") whose effects vary.
The human brain has an estimated 100 billion neurons. Extending from each of them is a long fiber, known as an “axon,” which can run several feet. Each axon forms a connection, known as a “synapse” with another neuron, creating a circuit over which brain signals travel. In Alzheimer’s disease (AD), individual neurons die and do not regenerate; while others have brains that are more are resilient and respond to meet changing demands.
Years of innovative and dedicated research have paid off with the discovery of numerous factors contributing to Alzheimer’s disease (AD) pathology. With a disease as complex as this one, it’s very helpful to find multiple points where it may be possible to slow or halt its progress.