On May 5, 2015, at the annual meeting of The CART Fund, Erik Musiek, MD, PhD., Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine was awarded a CART Grant in the amount of $250,000.
Dr. Musiek’s research is focused on understanding links between brain aging and Alzheimer’s disease. The goal of his work is to identify age-related processes in the brain that set the stage for Alzheimer’s disease, with the hope of developing therapies to prevent this process.
One hallmark of aging is the decline of circadian rhythms, the 24-hour cycles which keep our body and cells coordinated with nature’s light-dark cycle. In Alzheimer’s disease, these circadian rhythms are often severely disrupted, causing many patients to have problems regulating their sleep-wake cycle.
The Musiek lab has recently discovered that disturbing certain genes in mice that maintain the circadian clock causes inflammation and nerve cell damage in the brain, similar to that seen in Alzheimer’s disease. This research will examine how certain components of the circadian clock are malfunctioning in Alzheimer’s disease, and how this might contribute to the disease process. The team with then employ a novel drug to directly target the circadian clock in the brain in mice, to see if this can prevent inflammation and nerve cell damage in the brain. Ultimately, the hope is that similar interventions might slow or prevent the progression of Alzheimer’s disease in people.