Professor Chia-Yi “Alex” Kuan, MD, PhD, in the Department of Neuroscience, was awarded a new NIH R01 grant for $3 million to study the mechanisms of a pathological hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, namely hyperphosphorylated tau.
Tau is a normal microtubule-associated protein in neurons, but hyperphosphorylated tau forms tangles that correlates with the decline of cognitive function and neuronal loss in Alzheimer’s disease, even more so than the accumulation of amyloid plaques. However, past research has focused on single-mutation tau, without carefully testing the effects of hyperphosphorylated tau that is more akin to the clinical situation.
In this new NIH grant, Dr. Kuan and Min-Hao Kuo, PhD, co-principal investigator at Michigan State University, will apply recombinant hyperphosphorylated tau protein in neuron cultures to tease out the mechanisms of toxicity and introduce hyperphosphorylated tau into the animal brain to test dementia-like symptoms and treatments. Outcomes of this project may shed new insights into the pathogenesis and treatments of Alzheimer’s disease. Read more about this project here.
Dr. Kuan joined UVA in 2018 from Emory University School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics. Dr. Kuan’s research used to be focused on neonatal brain injury, but after moving to UVA and following the Department of Neuroscience’s emphasis on neurodegeneration, he is expanding into the research of the aging brain. “Besides the superb academic environment at UVA School of Medicine, this new research focus energizes me tremendously,” states Dr. Kuan.