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IU researchers develop new brain network modeling tools to advance Alzheimer's disease research

Press releases may be edited for formatting or style | December 01, 2023 Alzheimers/Neurology
INDIANAPOLIS—Indiana University researchers are collaborating on a novel approach to use neuroimaging and network modeling tools—previously developed to analyze brains of patients in the clinic—to investigate Alzheimer’s disease progression in preclinical animal models.

The research team, led by Evgeny Chumin, PhD, a postdoctoral research fellow in the College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at IU Bloomington, and Paul Territo, PhD, professor of medicine at the IU School of Medicine, published their findings in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.

More than 6.5 million Americans ages 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s disease, and that number could grow to nearly 14 million by 2060, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. While amyloid plaques and tau tangles are the two major hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease, research studies also indicate that Alzheimer’s disease alters glucose metabolism in the brain.

Evgeny Chumin, PhD

This study looked at metabolic network changes in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease animal models developed by the Model Organism Development and Evaluation for Late-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease (MODEL-AD), a consortium of experts at the IU School of Medicine, Jackson Laboratory, University of Pittsburgh and Sage Bionetworks. The tools developed through this research collaboration, Territo said, provide a translational approach to assess disease progression of Alzheimer’s disease in animal models and bolster the consortium’s rigorous animal model development and preclinical drug testing pipelines developed to study and treat the disease.

“We now for the first time have created tools to assess mouse models carrying human genes, which are built upon the well-established Brain Connectivity Toolbox used in human studies,” Territo said. “We are applying these tools to better understand Alzheimer’s disease progression and therapeutic response and are embedding them as a resource in MODEL-AD.”

Territo, a primary member of IU School of Medicine’s Stark Neurosciences Research Institute and co-principal investigator of the MODEL-AD consortium, said two past studies inspired his research into analyzing how different areas of the brain interact during disease progression.

Olaf Sporns, PhD, a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at IU Bloomington, has previously published papers about network neuroscience, an approach for monitoring disease progression using graph theory and medical imaging—MRI and PET—to map, record, analyze and model the elements and interactions of neurobiological systems in humans. This allows scientists to see changes that occur in the brain’s subnetworks by elevating how neuroimaging like MRI and PET can be analyzed. Chumin is a postdoctoral researcher in the Sporns laboratory.

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