Year In Review. Technology Management. Sponsored Research. Instruction & Public Service. MU Research.

Grant Boosts Researchers' Quest for Alzheimer's Cure

Two University of Missouri professors last year received a $6-million grant from the National Institutes of Health to extend a long-term investigation that could have major implications in the development of treatments for Alzheimer's disease, a devastating neurological illness affecting some four million people in the United States and 15 to 20 million worldwide.

Grace Sun and Gary Weisman, professors of biochemistry in the School of Medicine and the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, will use the funding to launch the second phase of an $11 million project aimed at identifying the causes of Alzheimer's disease. Previous studies have indicated toxic effects of a protein, the amyloid-beta peptide or "A-beta," which accumulates in amyloid plaques in the brain of Alzheimer's patients. Though its mechanisms are as yet unknown, researchers believe increased production of the peptide may impair brain functions.

"When the A-beta protein comes together inside the plaque, it will fold into an abnormal shape that is toxic to cells," Sun told the MU News Bureau last June. "While we know this has some effect on brain function, we don't know how toxic it is or at what stage the toxicity begins. In the past five years, we have started to understand how this disease works. With the new grant, we will be able to go forward and see if there are treatments that can modify the cellular response in the brain."

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National Institutes of Health