The NIH has awarded a $3.1M grant to Jayakrishna Ambati, MD and Bradley Gelfand, PhD to research their exciting discovery that “jumping genes” called SINE elements have increased activity in Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers recently reported these SINE elements trigger activation of a novel dual inflammasome, which is a specific part of the innate immune system (Wang et al. Science Immunology 2021). This grant, made possible in part by discoveries enabled by the Virginia Initiative to Accelerate Drugs awarded by the UVA Strategic Investment Fund, will help the researchers determine whether blocking this inflammasome with small molecule drugs can not only prevent cognitive dysfunction in Alzheimer’s disease models but also treat and improve preexisting cognitive deficits. Preliminary work suggests that treating old Alzheimer’s disease model mice with such drugs improves their spatial learning and memory formation. These findings are exciting because they open up the possibility of advancing a new class of therapeutics for Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerations.
For more information about Dr. Ambati’s and Dr. Gelfand’s research https://med.virginia.edu/ophthalmology/research/cavs/