Wisconsin ADRC announces Developmental Projects awardees

woman looking into a microscope

The Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC) is pleased to announce three Developmental Projects awardees, selected for their research targeting Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Project funding commences April 1, 2021, and will run two years.

Laura Eisenmenger, MD
"Eliciting the Role of Vascular Wall Dysfunction in Alzheimer’s"

There is a strong association between cerebrovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Cerebrovascular disease is a name given to a group of conditions that affect blood flow in the brain, and stroke is the most common type. The connection between cerebrovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease has not yet been defined. Dr. Eisenmenger aims to characterize the involvement of these conditions in Alzheimer’s disease through her research. To do this, Dr. Eisenmenger will be utilizing a series of non-invasive, MRI-based measures of cerebrovascular health. More specifically, she will use these tools to measure blood-brain barrier permeability and blood vessel wall stiffening. Ultimately, this research will lead to a better understanding of brain health in Alzheimer’s disease patients.
Kevin Eliceiri, PhD, and Tyler Ulland, PhD
"Label free quantitative imaging of the amyloid plaque cellular microenvironment in Alzheimer’s"

Alzheimer’s disease drives chemical changes in the brain that can alter cognition in patients, but the mechanisms behind these changes are not well-understood. Dr. Eliceiri and Dr. Ulland’s research is focused on studying the microglia-associated metabolism and fibrosis in the amyloid beta plaque-adjacent microenvironment. Microglia are the immune cells of the brain, and fibrosis is the development of fibrous connective tissue to aid in the repair of damaged tissues. Amyloid beta plaques are clumps of the naturally occurring beta-amyloid protein which exists in abnormal levels in the Alzheimer’s brain. This disrupts the function of neurons, and immune cells destroy the damaged cells as a result. This work aims to determine the changes that plaque-adjacent microglia undergo in Alzheimer’s disease and the extent to which amyloid beta plaques trigger a wound healing response in microglia. Successful completion of this research will result in a better understanding of the mechanistic role of wound healing in Alzheimer’s disease progression, improve the understanding of how microglia influence Alzheimer’s disease progression, and possibly reveal new targets for treatment.

Adrienne L. Johnson, PhD
"ADRD Prevention Messaging to Increase Smoking Cessation Attempts in Older Adults"

Smoking is a factor that can influence a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD). For example, people who quit smoking have a lower risk of dementia onset. Nonetheless, older smokers are less likely than younger smokers to attempt to quit smoking and to receive evidence-based smoking treatments such as nicotine replacement therapy. As a result, Dr. Johnson’s research aims to develop a program to encourage older adults to quit smoking that consists of a message that promotes quitting smoking and gives clear guidance to receive evidence-based smoking treatments within a healthcare setting. This intervention, if successful, will increase the amount of older adults who quit smoking, which will result in indirectly slowing the cognitive decline of those individuals. Further, it can possibly prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. 

Story by Catherine Vickerman