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National Institute on Aging grants $3.5 million for Jackson Laboratory Alzheimer's disease research

BAR HARBOR, Maine, Sept. 29, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The National Institute on Aging (NIA) has announced a grant of $3,567,446 to Jackson Laboratory (JAX) Assistant Professor Gareth Howell, Ph.D., and Harvard University Assistant Professor Beth Stevens, Ph.D., for research in mechanisms of Alzheimer's disease.

An estimated 5 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease. According to the NIA, Alzheimer's is currently ranked as the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, but recent estimates indicate that the disorder may rank third, just behind heart disease and cancer, as a cause of death for older people.

"Increasing age is the major risk factor for Alzheimer's disease, but the mechanisms are not clear," Howell explains. "Intriguingly, some of the genetic factors known to increase susceptibility to Alzheimer's disease are related to the body's immune system."

The Howell lab is studying certain cells that are part of the immune system's complement cascade. Known as complement-expressing myeloid cells, these cells appear to cause some of the damage to synapses and blood vessels during aging and the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. Inhibiting these cells in mice appears to lessen the severity of Alzheimer's disease-like symptoms in mouse models, pointing to new potential therapies for patients at risk for the disease.

For this research project, Drs. Howell and Stevens have assembled a multidisciplinary team that includes neuroscientists, geneticists, immunologists and computational biologists from JAX and Harvard University.

JAX is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institution and National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center with 50 principal investigators and more than 1,700 employees. Its mission is to discover precise genomic solutions for disease and empower the global biomedical community in the shared quest to improve human health.

Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number RF1AG051496. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

CONTACT: Joyce Peterson, The Jackson Laboratory, joyce.peterson@jax.org, 207-288-6058Source:The Jackson Laboratory