Walter J. Lukiw, PhD, Associate Professor of Neuroscience and Ophthalmology at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans, is the lead author of a paper identifying, for the first time, a specific function of a fragment of ribonucleic acid (RNA), once thought to be no more than a byproduct, in regulating inflammation and the development of Alzheimer's disease. The paper, An NF-kB-sensitive micro RNA-146a-mediated inflammatory circuit in Alzheimer's disease and in stressed human brain cells, will be published in the November 14, 2008 issue of The Journal of Biological Chemistry.
Dr. Lukiw's lab at the LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans Neuroscience Center of Excellence has shown that this tiny piece of RNA, or microRNA, called miRNA-146a is found in increased amounts in stressed human brain cells and in Alzheimer's disease, and that it plays a crucial role in the regulation of inflammation and disease-related neuropathology thought to be integral to the Alzheimer's disease process. Dr. Lukiw's research team, which also included LSUHSC's Jian Guo Cui, MD, PhD and Yuhai Zhao, a post doctoral student in the lab, demonstrated in human brain cells in primary culture that MiRNA-146a targets the messenger RNA of an important anti-inflammatory regulator called complement factor H (CFH). Testing both control cells and Alzheimer's disease-affected tissues, they found that miRNA-164a appears to reduce the amount and bioavailability of CFH, promoting the inflammation of brain cells and contributing to the development of Alzheimer's disease.
The most common form of dementia, Alzheimer's Disease is a fatal, age-related neurodegenerative disorder characterized clinically by the progressive erosion of cognition and memory, and neuropathologically by defective gene expression and increased inflammatory cell signaling. According to the Alzheimer's Foundation of America, it is estimated that Alzheimer's disease currently affects more than 5 million Americans and it is projected that the number could more than triple to 16 million by mid-century.
"The goal of these neuroscience research studies is to further our understanding of the molecular biology and genetic mechanisms associated with Alzheimer's Disease and to advance the design of therapeutic strategies to counteract this common and tragic neurological disorder," said Dr. Lukiw.
About LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans
LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans educates the majority of Louisiana's health care professionals. The state's academic health leader, LSUHSC comprises a School of Medicine, the state's only School of Dentistry, Louisiana's only public School of Public Health, Schools of Allied Health Professions and Graduate Studies, as well as the only School of Nursing in Louisiana within an academic health center. LSUHSC faculty take care of patients in public and private hospitals and clinics throughout Louisiana. In the vanguard of biosciences research in a number of areas worldwide, LSUHSC faculty have made lifesaving discoveries and continue to work to prevent, treat, or cure disease. LSUHSC outreach programs span the state.
About the LSU Neuroscience Center of Excellence
The Neuroscience Center of Excellence at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans pursues a multidisciplinary approach to neuroscience education and research. The primary mission of the Center is to foster and conduct science of the highest caliber that advances the understanding of brain function and diseases that affect the nervous system. A major role of the Center is to mentor the development of neuroscientists and clinician-neuroscientists through fundamental and translational research. The Neuroscience Center has established, through the faculty associated with the Center, research and clinical programs directed toward Alzheimer's disease, pain, Parkinson's disease, stroke, brain and spinal cord injury, epilepsy, depression, blinding eye diseases, schizophrenia, and developmental and hearing disorders.