Dr. Jose Abisambra to study brain protein
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 8, 2014) — The Alzheimer’s Association has awarded a $100,000 New Investigator Research Grant to Jose Abisambra, PhD, a University of Kentucky assistant professor who is also affiliated with the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, to study a brain protein that becomes abnormally modified in the course of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Dr. Abisambra’s research focuses on tau, a brain protein that stabilizes microtubules which, in turn, help maintain cell structure. Abnormal tau modification leads to the cell death that is prevalent in brains affected by Alzheimer’s, but the mechanisms that lead to tau abnormalities and the reasons why a change in tau’s structure becomes toxic are not known.
“A major challenge in the field of Alzheimer’s research is that we haven’t identified how tau causes neuronal damage and impairs memory,” said Dr. Abisambra. “Compelling evidence from our lab and others indicate that abnormal and toxic tau associates very strongly with ribosomes. The ribosome is the hub of new protein production, and the process of memory formation is damaged when protein synthesis is reduced. We were shocked to find that the abnormal association between tau and ribosomes potently reduced ribosomal function. Our research will lead to a better understanding of the process by which tau mediates ribosomal damage and how this phenomenon impairs memory in Alzheimer’s disease. This understanding is crucial to develop new therapeutic strategies, which are urgently needed.”
The Alzheimer’s Association is the largest nonprofit funder of Alzheimer’s research, having awarded more than $335 million to more than 2,250 projects since 1982. Alzheimer’s Association research grants are intended to advance the understanding of Alzheimer’s disease, help identify new treatment strategies, provide information to improve care for people with dementia and further knowledge of brain health and disease prevention.
Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death, and the most expensive disease, in the United States. Alzheimer’s kills more Americans than diabetes, and more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, including more than 167,000 residents of Kentucky and Indiana.