Studying astrocytes to understand links between cholesterol and Alzheimer’s disease
Prof Colin Akerman
University of Oxford
1 June 2022 - 28 February 2023
Full project name:
A novel cellular mechanism for regulating cholesterol synthesis in Alzheimer's disease
Researchers at the University of Oxford are using human brain cells to see if cholesterol produced by these cells affects amyloid build up in Alzheimer’s disease
What does the project aim to do?
Research is uncovering links between cholesterol and dementia, with mounting evidence that cholesterol causes changes associated with the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
However, cholesterol in our brains does not come from our diet, but instead from specialised cells called astrocytes. They make and deliver cholesterol to our brain cells to help them function normally.
It has recently been discovered that they might regulate how much cholesterol they produce through electrical potentials – this is the way in which cells send messages to each other. Little is known about how this works in astrocytes and whether this is the cause of increased cholesterol in Alzheimer’s disease. This is what Prof Colin Akerman and the team will uncover.
What will they do?
Prof Akerman will grow human astrocytes in the lab from cells donated by people living with Alzheimer's disease and healthy volunteers. He will then look at what happens when cholesterol regulation is altered.
They will also investigate whether increasing cholesterol production by astrocytes causes a build-up of the toxic amyloid protein found in the brains of people living with Alzheimer’s disease. Further to this, the team will test whether a well-known genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s ApoE, affects astrocyte cholesterol synthesis also.
The findings from this project can inform future targets and mechanisms that can be explored for future dementia treatments.
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