Alzheimer’s disease is a debilitating disease first described more than 100 years ago yet the underlying mechanisms causing sporadic Alzheimer’s disease remains elusive and there is no effective treatment or cure. The central interest of my lab is to identify root causes of and ways to prevent or better treat Alzheimer’s disease. We are particularly interested in damage that occurs to blood vessels in normal aging and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as in many neurodegenerative diseases including ALS, Parkinson’s disease, and Huntington’s disease. Cells called pericytes wrap around the smallest blood vessels, known as capillaries, and pericytes are critical for regulating blood flow and keeping blood and toxins from the blood stream from entering the brain, by supporting the blood-brain barrier. These cells are altered in Alzheimer’s disease and we are investigating the mechanisms of how and why this is happening.
In collaboration with other University of South Alabama College of Medicine faculty members, we are exploring how infections may contribute to Alzheimer’s disease with Troy Stevens, Ph.D., Ron Balczon, Ph.D., and Mike Lin, Ph.D.
In addition, we are collaborating with Joshua Keller, Ph.D., in USA’s Department of Health, Kinesiology and Sport, Center for Healthy Communities, Center of Excellence for Health Disparities, along with several other faculty members, and recently started a clinical trial to investigate whether specific exercise modalities improve brain vascular functions and cognition in middle-aged adults with the goal of preventing Alzheimer’s disease.
Thanks to AlzOut, we were able to acquire a MESO QuickPlex SQ 120. This instrument will allow us to investigate how new potential root causes associate with known Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers (e.g., amyloid-beta, tau, proinflammatory cytokines, vascular factors). Furthermore, it will allow us to test the effectiveness of treatments or preventative measures (e.g., exercise) by how they alter these biomarkers. Thanks again for your support!