Led by Frank LaFerla and Mathew Blurton-Jones, the UCI MIND team will create as many as 40 sets of induced pluripotent stem cells to explore the underlying biology of Alzheimer's disease and test novel therapeutic approaches.
Few discoveries have as much potential to transform modern medical research as iPS cells. They're capable of giving rise to every cell type in the human body, including the key cell types implicated in Alzheimer's disease: neurons, astrocytes and microglia.
Because iPS cells can be generated from patients with a given disease, they offer a powerful new way to study the influence of genetics on disease risk and progression. UCI MIND investigators, who do not use embryonic stem cells, have pioneered this avenue of research specifically for Alzheimer's disease.
"The ability to reprogram cells from adult subjects to make iPS cells is a giant leap forward for science," said LaFerla, UCI MIND director and Chancellor's Professor and chair of neurobiology & behavior. "And we're excited that UCI MIND is at the forefront of using this technology in the battle against Alzheimer's disease."
It's notable that iPS cells can be derived from skin or blood samples. Anyone, even older adults, can easily donate the material needed. Additionally, by harvesting these cells from the patient, transplantation-based therapies could — researchers hope — one day be administered without the need for immunosuppression.
The work funded by the NIA falls under the UCI MIND iPS Cell Bank Initiative, an effort to create a repository of Alzheimer's disease iPS cells that can be accessed by scientists around the world.
The iPS Cell Bank, which will be part of UCI MIND's National Institutes of Health-designated Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, is receiving considerable support through the Keith Swayne Family Challenge.
In honor of his wife, Judy Swayne, who has Alzheimer's disease, Keith Swayne and his family have pledged $150,000 in the form of a challenge. They will match every dollar raised up to $150,000, bringing the total to $300,000 when the challenge is met. These funds will help establish and expand the UCI MIND iPS Cell Bank.