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DSU research to shed light on Alzheimer's disease

ADEAR: "Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center, a service of the National Institute on Aging."
National Institute on Aging


In recent years, the federal government has funded a lot of research to figure out one mysterious object -- the brain. One question neuroscientists want answered is how diseases of aging, like Alzheimer's, develop.

“One of the mysteries in Alzheimer’s disease, and certainly with aging, is exactly how do neurons code for memory and how do they degenerate when you have Alzheimer’s disease?” said Lawal.

Hakeem Lawal,an assistant professor of biology at Delaware State University, recently received a nearly $700,000 five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to study neurological diseases, like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

The study focuses on better understanding how certain chemical processes, particularly a chemical called acetylcholine, in the brain change as a person gets older and how disruptions in these chemicals that are responsible for movement and memory play a role in how brain diseases develop. Lawal says that this research is vital to figuring out effective treatments.


To conduct this research, Lawal uses the fruit fly, which may not seem to have much in common with humans.


“Animals age, just like humans, and we think these acetylcholine processes changes with the aging process, so we’re very curious to understand some of nature’s secrets as to how that works and hope to relate it back to human biology," said Lawal.

The fruit fly are not only easy for scientists to work with--fruit flies and humans share about 60 percent of the same DNA. Acetylcholine is also found in the brain of fruit flies, which makes them an interesting specimen for Lawal's lab to do his research. But the difference between flies and humans in this area is that acetylcholine in humans is found in both the brain and muscles, which makes it difficult to create treatments that target just the brain, with minimal side effects to muscles.

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