Faculty researchers studying Alzheimer’s disease at IU School of Medicine perform molecular, genetic and imaging-based analysis of patients, looking for biomarkers that may predict onset of the disease and present new therapeutic targets. These investigators are examining 25 leading candidate genes while pursuing exciting new avenues for research and discovering new facets of the disease.

A major component of the Alzheimer’s disease research program at IU School of Medicine is the Indiana Alzheimer Disease Center, a multidisciplinary research program intensely committed to the U.S. National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA) to prevent and effectively treat Alzheimer disease by 2025. Major activities include innovative research on causes, early detection and treatment, including both pharmacological and non-drug approaches as well as interventions for caregivers and educational programs for researchers and members of the community. The Indiana Alzheimer Disease Center is part of a network of centers and programs working to rapidly find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.

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International expertise: Imaging, data science and translational research

A multi-dimensional approach

“It’s become increasingly clear that Alzheimer’s Disease is a complex disorder,” states Andrew Saykin, PsyD, Raymond C. Beeler Professor of Radiology and Imaging Sciences and Director of the Indiana Alzheimer Disease Center and the Indiana University Center for Neuroimaging. “We need to take a multi-dimensional approach.” The faculty of the centers are taking innovative approaches to examine exciting new avenues for research and discovering new facets of the disease. “Beta-amyloid and Tau [proteins] are important, but they’re not enough to explain the disease.”

Capturing real-time changes in the brain

Alzheimer’s Disease research has grown considerably; it used to be only diagnosed post mortem. Now, researchers can examine real-time changes in the brain in Alzheimer’s patients. These quantitative phenotypes can be measured using a variety of imaging techniques, including positron emission tomography (PET) scans and multiple advanced magnetic resonance (MR) imaging techniques and modalities.

The research group is also working on noninvasive measurements of brain architecture that give a quantitative readout during memory tasks patients are asked to perform while in the scanner. The researchers are just beginning to scratch the surface of possibilities, pairing genetic and imaging data to better understand the disease and its progression.

Gene sequencing with super computers

“We have tremendous amounts of multimodal imaging and genetic data. Right now the great challenge is having the right informatics strategy,” explains Saykin. “We’re connecting the dots.” Indiana University School of Medicine’s supercomputing facilities come into play in the strategic plan on how to integrate complex and rich data sets. The researchers are collaborating with other faculty investigators in Bloomington to generate better models of brain connectivity (the “connectome”) and relate these models to genetics.

The Alzheimer’s disease research community has shifted vision to early detection of the disease. “We need to use biomarkers to try to understand if they have underlying neurodegeneration or some other reason. For patients headed for Alzheimer’s Disease, we [could] do intervention.”

Advanced imaging technology

Advanced imaging technology is now available to detect changes in the brain in patients who perform normally on memory tasks but have “cognitive complaints” of general forgetfulness. The research group is looking to understand which individuals are at risk even before they exhibit task performance problems.

While imaging technology and research evolves to allow earlier detection of AD, it also means analysis of AD patients on an individual level. The center continues to produce data and make discoveries that fall in line with the IU Precision Health Initiative.

Neuroscience is targeting Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer disease has been at the forefront of neuroscience due to substantive innovations in molecular biology, genetics, neuropathology and imaging technologies. IU School of Medicine training curriculum ensures that emerging physicians and physician-scientists are prepared to advance progress to prevent and effectively treat this devastating disease.

Internationally recognized, world-class faculty researchers

Liana G. Apostolova, MD

Liana G. Apostolova, MD

Barbara and Peer Baekgaard Professor of Alzheimer's Disease Research
Bruce T. Lamb, PhD

Bruce T. Lamb, PhD

Executive Director, Paul and Carole Stark Neurosciences Research Institute
Shannon L. Risacher

Shannon L. Risacher

Assistant Professor of Radiology & Imaging Sciences
Frederick W. Unverzagt, PhD

Frederick W. Unverzagt, PhD

Professor of Clinical Psychology

Research News

IU awarded $7.6 million grant to establish groundbreaking study of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

IU School of Medicine has been awarded a one-year, $7.6 million grant from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) to establish a network of sites to study early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

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Alzheimer’s Association Honors Hugh Hendrie with ‘Lifetime Achievement’ Award

Indiana University’s Hugh Hendrie, MB, ChB, DSc, was recently honored with the Henry Wisniewski Lifetime Achievement Award in Alzheimer’s Disease Research at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in London.

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Clinical Trials

Clinical Trials

Successful clinical trials rely on both healthy individuals and people with Alzheimer disease to identify symptoms and gene markers that indicate the disease.
Collaboration

Collaboration

Sharing resources and collaborative support are critical for advancing understanding and solutions related to Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.