• Article
  • Jun 15 2022

UK Study Identifies Therapeutic Targets for Alzheimer’s Disease

UK researchers Erhard Bieberich and Simone Crivelli have identified new therapeutic targets for Alzheimer’s disease. Arden Barnes | UK Photo.

A new University of Kentucky College of Medicine study has identified potential targets to develop a therapy that could prevent Alzheimer’s disease. 

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, affecting an estimated 6.2 million Americans in 2021 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Currently, there is no cure, only pharmaceutical and behavioral interventions for managing symptoms.

The study published in the Journal of Extracellular Vesicles June 1 focuses on how ceramide, a type of lipid or fat, is used by cells to secrete small fluid-filled sacs called extracellular vesicles. Secreted by cells to communicate with each other, extracellular vesicles have been defined as the “Trojan horses of neurodegeneration.”

During the Alzheimer’s disease process, extracellular vesicles are enriched with ceramide. If the extracellular vesicles are taken up by nerve cells, the ceramide attacks mitochondria, the cells’ powerhouse, thereby compromising energy production and normal cell function. 

The research led by Simone Crivelli, Ph.D., in the Department of Physiology identifies new targets to reduce ceramide binding to extracellular vesicles.

“Increasing our knowledge on how extracellular vesicles are formed and how their cargo is determined may lead to the development of new therapeutic approach for Alzheimer’s disease,” said Crivelli, a postdoctoral scholar in the lab of Erhard Bieberich, Ph.D.

The current study is part of a broader research effort by the Bieberich lab to understand how extracellular vesicles damage neurons in Alzheimer’s disease, ultimately leading to neurodegeneration and cognitive decline. The findings could be promising for the development of new therapies for Alzheimer’s disease.

Bieberich’s lab is focused on understanding the function of ceramide and was first to discover that ceramide is enriched in extracellular vesicles in Alzheimer’s disease. Current and future research from his lab is focused on understanding how ceramide mediates or enhances the damage by neurotoxic proteins in Alzheimer’s disease.

Crivelli’s work was supported in part by the BrightFocus Foundation’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research (ADR) program, which supports scientific projects investigating ideas to diagnose, treat, cure and prevent Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health under Award Numbers R01AG034389, R01AG064234 and P30AG028383, and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R01NS095215. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

This material is based upon work supported by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health Administration, Office of Research and Development, Biomedical Laboratory Research and Development. The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the Department of Veterans Affairs or the United States government.