The Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative (AAQI)
Raising Awareness & Funding Research Through Art
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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.