ResearchPublished 27 February 2020
Marsden Fund grant supports UC molecular research on Alzheimer’s disease
Dr Vanessa Morris, a University of Canterbury biochemist, is seeking to unravel the molecular interactions driving Alzheimer’s disease with a $300,000 Marsden Fund Fast-Start grant
Adapted from an article published by LiveNews on 26 February 2020
Current treatments for Alzheimer’s disease can help manage symptoms but are unable to slow the progression of this devastating disease. With the assistance of a $300,000 Fast-Start grant from the 2019 Marsden Fund, a University of Canterbury biochemist is seeking to unravel the molecular interactions driving Alzheimer’s disease. Her work could pave the way to new and more effective therapies.
As our population ages, rates of Alzheimer’s disease continue to rise. It is the most common form of dementia and a leading cause of death worldwide, yet so far solutions to slow its progression have proved elusive.
That’s largely because knowledge about the mechanisms that underlie the disease is thin on the ground.
Now University of Canterbury lecturer in Biological Sciences, Dr Vanessa Morris, hopes to shed more light on interactions taking place at the molecular level to better understand the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease. The crucial importance of her research has been recognised with the award of a 2019 Marsden Fund Fast-Start grant.
Two hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease are abnormal clumping of the ‘amyloid-beta’ protein around brain cells and inflammation of brain tissue. These two physical changes also have a genetic link to the TREM2 gene, with mutations on that gene being one of the strongest identified risk factors to date for developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life.
With the grant, Dr Morris will apply molecular and biophysical techniques to study how ‘amyloid-beta’ protein clumps interact with TREM2 and how disease-linked mutations on that gene affect that interaction. She will use nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy to closely study protein interactions at the molecular level.
“This work will establish crucial information on the molecular pathology of Alzheimer’s disease, providing targets for the development of therapies to block harmful interactions to treat Alzheimer’s disease,” says Dr Morris.
Her research mentor for this promising project is University of Canterbury Biochemistry Professor Renwick Dobson.
Additional information: Investments – Marsden Fund grant supports UC molecular research on Alzheimer’s disease
Dr Vanessa Morris
University of Canterbury
CONTRACT OR PROJECT ID
UOC1902: 'Unravelling molecular details of protein interactions that drive Alzheimer's disease