Jena/Bethesda. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) supports a collaborative research project of Dr. Alessandro Ori of the Leibniz Institute on Aging – Fritz Lipmann Institute (FLI) in Jena, Germany and Dr. Michael E. Ward of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), USA. As one of 30 pairs of researchers, they receive a grant out of the CZI Neurodegeneration Challenge Network (NDCN), aiming at novel approaches for gaining greater insights into neurodegenerative disorders.
Dr. Ori’s lab uses a very short-lived fish, called killifish (Nothobranchius furzeri), as a model to investigate effects of aging on a molecular level. In the current project, the team will contribute biochemical and computational approaches to study protein complexes using quantitative mass spectrometry, and develop novel genetic tools to model neurodegenerative disorders in killifish. They will collaborate with Dr. Ward’s lab at the NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders. His lab combines induced pluripotent stem cell technology and advanced molecular and genetic analysis techniques to study how cells from patients with inherited forms of dementia and other neurodegenerative disorders die and wrack the brain.
Together, the two teams combine clinical and basic science expertise to investigate the central question on how gene mutations and aging work together to accelerate neurodegenerative diseases. At present, very little is known about how genetic and age-related changes at the molecular and cellular level interact and trigger neurodegenerative diseases.
Their studies will concentrate on the gene TDP-43, a gene associated with frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). They will analyze how loss of TDP-43 function accelerates the age-related decline of protein complexes, thus impairing protein quality control programs in the brain and finally leading to neurodegeneration. Any findings could have important implications for understanding how aging increases risk for neurodegenerative diseases.
Both teams will receive $75,000 seed funds for the first phase of this novel initiative by the CZI, founded by Dr. Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg in 2015. Successful project teams will be eligible to apply for additional grant awards of $1.6 million over four years.
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