Identifying New Lines of Attack in the Battle Against Alzheimer’s Disease

Department of Biomedical Engineering Receives a $3.5 Million Research Grant from the National Institutes of Health

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The molecular and cellular mechanism that causes Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is still not fully understood. The risk factors underlying AD may include genetic background, environment, lifestyle and chemistry within the brain and body. One thing science does know is that neuroinflammation is a key risk factor in the development of AD. What is also known is that the essential element Magnesium (Mg) plays an important role in reducing inflammation in the human body.

 This knowledge led Donghui Zhu, Associate Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and the Institute for Engineering-Driven Medicine, to create a research project focused on the link between Mg, inflammation and AD. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently awarded Professor Zhu $3.5 million to fund the project.

“We know that around age 60 individuals begin to experience reduced Mg levels and that perhaps as many as 75% of older people are Mg deficient,” says Professor Zhu. “This potential connection between Mg, inflammation and AD has been largely overlooked. Understanding the precise involvement of Mg and related inflammation in neurodegenerative diseases may uncover strategies that could evolve as new therapeutic targets for effective treatment of neuroinflammation, AD and other dementia.”

The hypothesis is that Mg protects neurons by serving as an antioxidant to reduce oxidative stress (the imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body), inflammation and synaptic loss. Professor Zhu began looking at this issue fifteen years ago while still in grad school. He was able to bring his expertise to Stony Brook’s College of Engineering and Applied Sciences (CEAS) beginning with the 2019/2020 academic year through the SUNY Empire Innovation Program (EIP), a New York state competitive grant program dedicated to recruiting and retaining world-class faculty at the State University of New York.

“The EIP program continues to be instrumental in enabling us to attract premier scientific talent at Stony Brook and CEAS,” said Fotis Sotiropoulos, Dean, College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “In only a few short months with us, Don is already making a measurable impact on our College and on the battle against Alzheimer’s. I look forward to the results of this important and ground-breaking work as his research progresses.”

Professor Zhu will continue this research with Co-Principal Investigator, Huaxi Xu, Professor and Director Neuroscience Initiative at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute.’

Source: Stony Brook University

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