Sika Zheng, an associate professor of biomedical sciences in the UCR School of Medicine, has received a $250,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to study novel mechanisms that characterize the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, or AD.
AD, the most common cause of dementia among the elderly, is characterized by plaques and tangles in the brain. Plaques, deposits of a protein fragment called beta-amyloid, look like clumps in the spaces between neurons. Tangles, twisted fibers of tau, another protein, look like bundles of fibers that build up inside cells.
Zheng explained that neuronal cell death, which leads to brain atrophy, is the most consistent feature and ultimate cause of AD and AD-related dementia. It is widely thought that the amyloid plaques contribute to neuronal cell death in people with Alzheimer’s.
“We will investigate the role of neural-specific RNA splicing and its dysregulation during AD progression,” said Zheng, who directs the UCR Center for RNA Biology and Medicine. “Dysregulation of neural-specific RNA splicing may underlie neurons’ increased vulnerability to AD during aging. We hope our study’s findings will shed light on new RNA-based pathogenesis mechanisms of neurodegenerative diseases like AD,” Zheng said.
The one-year grant will support students and postdocs.