Metabolomics
An important area of research in the quest to understand the pathological cascade leading to Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the field of metabolomics. Bryan ADRC scientists in the Department of Psychiatry led by Rima Kaddurah-Daouk, PhD, are examining the “metabolome,” in AD, that is the complex interactions of small molecules present in human cells and tissues, to better understand the interactions between genes, proteins produced, and the cellular environment to culminate in fully expressed AD. Similar studies have been done in Parkinson’s disease and schizophrenia which have identified unique signatures of these disorders.  The approach can lead to new insights and potentially novel treatment strategies.  Recent work from the Bryan ADRC conducted in well-characterized AD patients and controls identified abnormalities in plasma levels of two lipid classes (sphringomyelin and ceramide) known to be important in neuronal function (Han et al., 2011 Plos one, 6(7)).  Work continues to understand these tantalizing findings and is examining these changes in relationship to memory symptoms to determine if this lipid signature is useful as a biomarker of AD and whether changes in this lipid pathway might be a useful avenue in future treatment strategies.