Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative Awards Second Research Grant

Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative Awards Second Research Grant
Ms. Joan Zhou, Prof. Dr. Chris Schaffer, and Dr. Nozomi Nishimura in front of one of the laser systems used for imaging Alzheimer’s disease plaques and vasculature in the brains of mice. Ms. Zhou is a graduate student in Biomedical Engineering, while Dr. Nishimura is a post-doctoral researcher in Prof. Schaffer’s laboratory at Cornell University. These researchers are studying whether the plaques that form in the brain in Alzheimer’s disease may lead to damage to nearby blood vessels that leads to blood leaking into the brain tissue.


Alzheimer’s Art Quilt Initiative Awards Second Research Grant BURTON, MI -- July 21, 2009- The Alzheimer’s Art Quilt Initiative (AAQI) has awarded a $10,000 research grant to Dr. Chris B. Schaffer, Dept. of Biomedical Engineering, Cornell University for study to determine if the plaques that form in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease may lead to damage to nearby blood vessels causing blood to leak into surrounding brain tissue. This grant, the second of many the AAQI will award, was made in honor of Karey Bresanhan, founder and president of Quilts, Inc.

Dr Schaffer received his undergraduate degree from the University of Florida in 1995 and his Ph.D. from Harvard University. Both of his degrees are in physics. He is currently an Assistant Professor at Cornell University in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. His research has centered on the development of optical tools for in vivo manipulation and quantitative imaging of biological structures and the use of these tools to study the role of cortical microvascular lesions in neurological disease.

The Alzheimer’s Art Quilt Initiative is a national, grassroots organization whose mission is to raise awareness and fund research. Alzheimer’s: Forgetting Piece by Piece (a nationally touring exhibit of quilts about Alzheimer's) and the Priority: Alzheimer’s Quilts project are two of its efforts. The AAQI has raised more than $285,000 for Alzheimer’s research since January 2006. Ami Simms of Flint, Michigan is the founder and executive director of AAQI, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Her mother had Alzheimer’s.

For more information on the AAQI or to make a donation, contact Ami Simms at 810-637-5586 (9 a.m – 3 p.m. Eastern), ami@alzquilt.org or www.alzquilts.org.

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Contact: Ami Simms (Ami@AlzQuilts.org)
Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative
1200 Creekwood Trail
Burton, MI 48509
Phone: 810.637.5586
www.AlzQuilts.org


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Ms. Joan Zhou, Prof. Dr. Chris Schaffer,
and Dr. Nozomi Nishimura in front of one of the laser systems
used for imaging Alzheimer’s disease plaques and vasculature
in the brains of mice.
Photo courtesy Cornell University
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"Increased Vascular Permeability Near Amyloid-Beta Plaques in Alzheimer's Brains"
by Dr. Schaffer

Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by a loss of cognitive function caused by the death of neurons in the brain. This cell death is due, in part, to the toxic effects of aggregates of a small protein, amyloid-beta. This protein accumulates into dense plaques that are scattered throughout the brain and are the pathological hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. There is evidence that the plaques create a toxic environment in their immediate vicinity that could affect many functions. In this work, we propose to test the idea that this toxic microenvironment damages nearby blood vessels, specifically we will determine whether blood vessels near plaques are more permeable and leak blood products into the brain. Such localized failures of the blood brain barrier could exacerbate damage to nearby brain cells by exposing them to components of the blood that are toxic to neurons. In addition, these small hemorrhages could potentially accelerate the formation of new amyloid plaques, leading to a vicious cycle of damage to the brain. This work will use advanced optical techniques together with special strains of mice that develop Alzheimer plaques to determine whether this hypothesis is true. The cumulative effect of many of these failures of the blood brain barrier, essentially small hemorrhagic strokes, could contribute significantly to the neuronal damage and cognitive decline seen in Alzheimer’s disease. Our work will open the door to future research aimed at identifying therapeutic strategies to prevent these Alzheimer plaque-related microhemorrhages or mitigating their effect on brain function.