Researcher looks at roles genes, age and sex play in brain inflammation

Currently, in the United States, an estimated 5.8 million individuals age 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s disease, and this number is projected to increase drastically to 14 million by 2050.

At the Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work, researchers are looking to better understand how certain genetic risk factors for developing Alzheimer’s disease modify the brain’s response to an inflammatory stimulus.

“While chronic neuroinflammation has been shown to play a critical role in the etiology of Alzheimer’s Disease, aging and presence of the Apolipoprotein E4 allele have emerged as significant risk factors for the disease, with reports potentially identifying women as a susceptible group,” says Isha Mhatre, a student completing her curricular practical training in Dr. Jason Richardson’s laboratory; Richardson is professor and associate dean for research in the Stempel College.

Mhatre was recently awarded the Association of Scientists of Indian Origin (ASIO) Dr. Laxman Desai Graduate Student Award for the best abstract by the Society of Toxicology.

“The research is aimed at studying how age, sex and genotype modify the response to an inflammatory stimulus,” Mhatre says.

Alzheimer’s disease is a complex and multifaceted neurodegenerative disorder. Neuroinflammation has emerged as a prominent player in Alzheimer’s research and is closely associated with the hallmark neuropathologies of Alzheimer’s; this is supported by the identification of more than 20 gene variants associated with the disease.

“My current study will contribute to the understanding of the mechanisms of how APOE genotype, age and sex modulate inflammatory responses in AD and may provide insight into the unique susceptibility of women to AD,” Mhatre adds. “As the incidence and cost of treating Alzheimer’s continue to rise dramatically, there is a desperate need to understand the interactions between multiple risk factors and inflammatory responses to develop more personalized therapeutic interventions.”

In 2018, Mhatre was the recipient of the Society of Toxicology’s graduate student travel award.

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