Timeline: Our Key Moments in Brain Health Research

NeuroNetwork for Emerging Therapies Key Moments in Brain Health research infographic

Our Key Moments:

Our program on brain health launches!

The overarching goals? To understand the factors that contribute to brain health and develop therapies for dementia, including Alzheimer's disease.
In our first study, we investigated the link between impaired metabolism in a mouse model of diabetes with Alzheimer's disease brain pathology.

We discovered that brain neurons, the cells that transmit signals and form memories, can become non-responsive to insulin, the molecule that stimulates sugar metabolism. 

Our clinical study of people with diabetes and neuropathy, nerve damage in the feet and hands, found they also have an imbalance in brain levels of neurotransmitters, the molecules that transmit brain signals. 

We furthered our preclinical studies in diabetes mouse models, demonstrating that they develop Alzheimer's disease pathology in the brain through changes in a protein called tau. 

We showed that the brain of a diabetes mouse model develops insulin resistance, an insensitivity to insulin and sugar metabolism, which is linked to tissue pathology in Alzheimer's disease and the protein tau. 

A busy year for us!

  • One study found that oxidized cholesterol, which is elevated in diabetes, impairs the function of brain lysosomes, cellular structures that clear debris. If debris is not cleared, this increases the risk of dementia; thus, this work highlighted another link between dysfunctional metabolism (diabetes) with poor brain health.
  • Another study this year found that obesity in mice induces a process called endoplasmic reticulum stress in the brain, a cellular response to stress linked to dementia. 
  • This year, we also launched our program on stem cells for treating dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Stem cells support and nurture brain neurons. These stem cells also produce a hormone called insulin-like growth factor-I, which stimulates metabolism and growth. 

We successfully demonstrated that we can transplant stem cells producing the hormone insulin-like growth factor I into the brain of Alzheimer's disease mice. 

We continued to develop and advance our stem cell program, discovering that insulin-like growth factor I expressing stem cells transplanted into the brain enhance memory in Alzheimer's disease mice. 

We demonstrated that obesity also impacts the pathology of another Alzheimer's disease protein called amyloid precursor protein. Further, we found that insulin-like growth factor I prevents this pathology.

We used MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to track the movement of transplanted stem cells in the brain of animal models. The MRI showed that the stem cells survive in the brain for as long as ten weeks.