Dr. Melissa Edler receives NIH award to study Alzheimer's disease

Researchers from Kent State University and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center were recently awarded a two-year National Institute on Aging grant (1R21AG080216-01) for $625,478. Supported by the National Institutes of Health’s Alzheimer’s Disease Initiative funds, Dr. Melissa K. Edler, research assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology at Kent State, will investigate the effects of age and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) pathology on neurotransmitter gene and protein expression in postmortem chimpanzee brains.

Older apes experience mild decline in cognition and motor skills, and their brains bear remarkable similarities to elderly humans. Chimpanzees also exhibit the pathologic lesions observed in the brains of AD patients, but in contrast to humans, they lack significant cell loss and dementia symptoms. These findings indicate a specific vulnerability in humans or a protective mechanism in chimpanzees. Therefore, examining age and species alterations in neurotransmitters may elucidate why chimpanzees lack severe cognitive decline despite the presence of AD lesions.

In addition, co-investigator Dr. William D. Hopkins, professor and interim director and chair of the Department of Comparative Medicine at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, will assess age-associated changes in cognition, motor, and social tasks in a cohort of captive geriatric chimpanzees. Together, Edler and Hopkins will identify if age-related behavioral changes are associated with modifications in neurotransmitter levels in chimpanzees.

This work will fill a crucial gap in our evolutionary knowledge of the influence of aging and AD pathology on neurotransmitters in chimpanzees, our closest living relative. Moreover, this study will provide an unique opportunity to examine cognitive, motor, and social variation between aging chimpanzees and humans.

Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R21AG080216. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

POSTED: Monday, January 23, 2023 09:22 AM
Updated: Monday, January 23, 2023 09:25 AM