Platform for the Discovery of Alzheimer’s Disease Mechanisms and Treatments

There is an urgent need to clarify the brain processes involved in the development of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and to use this information to discover effective ways to treat and prevent the disease. While studies in animal, cellular and other laboratory models play essential roles in this endeavor, detailed molecular data from persons with and without AD are needed to further inform these experimental studies and clarify the extent to which findings are relevant to this fundamentally human disease.

In this four-year project, NOMIS funds will be used to develop an unprecedented public resource of detailed gene expression data from human brain cells and regions that differ in the vulnerability or resilience to AD and help to galvanize the discovery of disease mechanisms, risk factors and treatments. The project will capitalize on high-quality brain tissue from 100 longitudinally, neuropathologically and genetically characterized brain donors with and without AD.  Emerging “big data” analysis techniques will be used to discover molecular networks involved in the disease and molecular drivers of these networks, including those that could be targeted by new or repurposed treatments.

This platform will foster interactions between researchers involved in studies of the human AD brain and experimental researchers who validate the molecular drivers, seek to clarify the generalizability of their own findings to the human disease, and discover paths for future treatments. In addition, it will provide a foundation to develop one of the largest basic and translational neuroscience programs for the fight against AD and other neurodegenerative diseases.

The project is led by Eric Reiman, Winnie Liang, Thomas Beach, Ben Readhead and Joel Dudley from Banner Alzheimer’s Institute, Banner Sun Health Research Institute, the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), the Arizona State University-Banner Neurodegenerative Disease Research Center, and the Arizona Alzheimer’s Consortium.