Dr. Nashaat Gerges receives Investigator Award from Alzheimer’s Association of Southeastern Wisconsin
Nov., 08, 2012 College News - Nashaat Gerges, PhD, Associate Professor of Cell Biology, Neurobiology and Anatomy at the Medical College of Wisconsin, will receive the Investigator Award at the 29th annual meeting of the Alzheimer’s Association, Southeastern Wisconsin Chapter, on Monday, Nov. 12.
Dr. Gerges is being honored by the chapter as a local investigator for his study of the role of retinoic acid in Alzheimer's disease. Brain cells communicate with one another through tiny channels called synapses. In early Alzheimer's disease, damage to these synapses is associated with cognitive decline, especially learning and memory deficits. Yet the exact biological mechanisms underlying this synaptic damage are unclear.
Dr. Gerges and his colleagues have observed that retinoic acid, a key compound in vitamin A, may work together with a protein called neurogranin to promote healthy synaptic function. In Alzheimer's disease, however, the transportation of neurogranin to neuronal synapses becomes decreased, possibly reducing the ability of both neurogranin and retinoic acid to maintain synaptic health.
For this study, Dr. Gerges and colleagues intend to clarify how neurogranin assists retinoic acid in regulating synaptic activity. Part of their effort will involve assessing how the two compounds may work together to improve synaptic health and cognitive function in models of Alzheimer's disease. Such work could lead to a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying cognitive decline in Alzheimer's. It could also help promote the development of therapies for preventing the disease or slowing its progression.
In the fall of 2011, Dr. Gerges was awarded a New Investigator Research Grant from the Alzheimer’s Association International Grants Program, receiving $100,000 over two years to study the molecular mechanisms by which retinoic acid exerts its function in the brain. Since awarding its first grants in 1982, the Alzheimer’s Association has become the largest private, nonprofit funder of Alzheimer research, awarding more than $300 million to 2,100 scientific investigations around the world.
Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. It kills more Americans than diabetes, and more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. An estimated 5.4 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease according to the Association’s 2012 Alzheimer’s disease Facts and Figures report.