January 27, 2021

Salk scientists awarded $1.2 million by Larry L. Hillblom Foundation to study brain aging and dementia

Salk News

Salk scientists awarded $1.2 million by Larry L. Hillblom Foundation to study brain aging and dementia

LA JOLLA—A collaborative team of Salk scientists led by Professor John Reynolds will receive $1.2 million over four years as part of a Network Grant from the Larry L. Hillblom Foundation to examine aging across the life span, including age-related neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. The research will advance our understanding of aging mechanisms at the cognitive, genomic and cellular levels with potentially direct translatability to humans. Other members of the team include Salk President and Professor Rusty Gage, Staff Scientist Uri Manor, Senior Staff Researcher Courtney Glavis-Bloom, and Carol Marchetto, an assistant professor at the University of California San Diego.

“Aging is the greatest risk factor for neurodegenerative diseases, yet we know very little about how the brain ages across the life span,” says Gage. “With this generous new funding from the Larry L. Hillblom Foundation, we will be able to explore this scientific mystery and hope to uncover some of the basic mechanisms of brain aging.”

For this newly funded project, the Salk team will examine the link between metabolism of the aging brain and cognitive decline. Neurons use nearly ten times the amount of energy as any other cell type, making them especially susceptible to metabolic dysfunction. The main energy source for neurons are the cells’ powerhouses, the mitochondria, which experience significant deterioration as the brain ages. The scientists will test whether mitochondrial impairment is driving the cognitive decline observed in neurodegenerative diseases.

“We think age-related mitochondrial deterioration could be driving the cognitive decline observed in many neurodegenerative diseases,” says Reynolds. “We are extremely grateful to the Larry L. Hillblom Foundation for funding our project, so that we can examine this theory in extraordinary detail.”

The Larry L. Hillblom Foundation supports medical research within the state of California and facilitates interaction between networks of researchers.

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