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Interdisciplinary research team awarded $3.8M to study molecular changes in the brain caused by Alzheimer’s disease

Xiangmin Xu
UCI School of Medicine
UCI School of Medicine’s Xiangmin Xu is part of a team of researchers awarded $3.8 million by the National Institute on Aging to conduct an epigenomic analysis of neural circuits in the brain.

Epigenomic analysis could lead to early detection and new therapies

Irvine, CA - May 12, 2020 – A team of researchers from the University of California, Irvine and San Diego have been awarded $3.8 million by the National Institute on Aging to conduct an epigenomic analysis of neural circuits in the brain. By revealing molecular changes that occur during the course of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), the team hopes to identify new therapeutic targets and molecular biomarkers for early detection and better treatment.

The interdisciplinary research team is led by multiple principal investigators, including Xiangmin Xu, PhD, a professor of anatomy and neurobiology and director of the Center for Neural Circuit Mapping at the UCI School of Medicine, Carl Cotman, PhD, a professor of neurology and founding director of the Institute for Brain Aging and Dementia at the UCI School of Medicine, and Bing Ren, PhD, a professor of cellular and molecular medicine and director of the Center for Epigenomics at the UCSD School of Medicine. 

The team will study how the epigenome of key cell types in neural circuits shapes hippocampal circuit activity and behaviors during AD progression.  The proposed research, conducted using mouse models that mimic the neurodegenerative disease, will involve the use of single cell genomic technologies coupled with functional circuit mapping and behavioral analysis.

"Our goal is to reveal the molecular changes that occur during the course of the disease, that impact learning and memory, and identify a path toward early detection and new drug therapies for Alzheimer’s disease,” said Xu. 

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of progressive dementia (memory and cognitive loss) in older adults and a growing major health concern in the U.S. Currently, more than 5.5 million Americans may have dementia caused by AD.

“Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease,” said Xu. “And, as millions of people are affected by this debilitating condition, it is increasingly critical that we develop better early diagnostic tools and new treatment strategies to care for them.”

About the UCI School of Medicine

Each year, the UCI School of Medicine educates more than 400 medical students, and nearly 150 doctoral and master’s students. More than 700 residents and fellows are trained at UCI Medical Center and affiliated institutions. The School of Medicine offers an MD; a dual MD/PhD medical scientist training program; and PhDs and master’s degrees in anatomy and neurobiology, biomedical sciences, genetic counseling, epidemiology, environmental health sciences, pathology, pharmacology, physiology and biophysics, and translational sciences. Medical students also may pursue an MD/MBA, an MD/master’s in public health, or an MD/master’s degree through one of three mission-based programs: the Health Education to Advance Leaders in Integrative Medicine (HEAL-IM), the Leadership Education to Advance Diversity-African, Black and Caribbean (LEAD-ABC), and the Program in Medical Education for the Latino Community (PRIME-LC). The UCI School of Medicine is accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Accreditation and ranks among the top 50 nationwide for research. For more information, visit som.uci.edu.

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