Lukens Lab to Study Role of Emerging Genetic Risk Factor in Alzheimer’s Disease

June 25, 2024 by

(From left) Addie Walsh, John Lukens, PhD

(From left) Addie Walsh, John Lukens, PhD

John Lukens, PhD, an associate professor of neuroscience and inaugural director of the Harrison Family Translational Research Center in Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases to be located in UVA’s Paul and Diane Manning Institute of Biotechnology, was awarded a $2.8 million NIH grant for a project titled “Making a case for CASS4 in Alzheimer’s disease.”

Recent genome-wide association studies have consistently linked mutations in CASS4 (Cas Scaffold Protein Family Member 4) to an increased risk of developing late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Yet very little is currently known about the role of CASS4 in basic neurobiology or neurodegenerative disease pathogenesis. In preliminary studies, the Lukens lab finds that CASS4 deletion in an Alzheimer’s disease model leads to cognitive decline and defective control of neurotoxic material in the brain.

Through the proposed new research, Dr. Lukens and his team hope to gain further insights into the biology of an Alzheimer’s disease risk gene, CASS4, and its role in neuroinflammation and neurodegenerative disease progression. Findings from these studies will aid in identifying how to optimally target CASS4 as a therapeutic strategy to treat Alzheimer’s disease.

Rising fourth-year graduate student, Addie Walsh, generated all of the preliminary data featured in this grant and will continue leading the studies as part of her thesis project. Amy Bouton, PhD, a professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Cancer Biology, also provided instrumental advice on the proposed molecular signaling studies. Maureen Cowan, PhD, a School of Medicine data scientist, provided excellent bioinformatics support on this project.

Learn more about the Lukens lab at the UVA School of Medicine.

Filed Under: Research