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SciShots: A sneak peek of a new Alzheimer’s disease project

Researchers are in the early stages of investigating the brain cells most vulnerable to this devastating form of dementia


1 min read

A project newly underway at the Allen Institute aims to better understand the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease by identifying changes in the neurons and other brain cells as the disease progresses. Through collaborations with UW Medicine and Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute, Allen Institute scientists are comparing brain cells across patients with different stages of the disease (using brain tissue from patients who agreed to donate their brains to science after they die) with the goal of pinpointing how and where the neurodegenerative disease starts. Their experiments will look for the specific types of neurons and other brain cells that die off or are otherwise changed in early stages of the disease. This image, captured by Allen Institute researcher Zoe Maltzer, shows brain tissue from a patient who died with Alzheimer’s disease. Bright orange specks label a molecule called phosphorylated tau, which accumulates in the brain as Alzheimer’s progresses; blue dots stain the chromosomes of every cell present in the tissue. Eventually, Maltzer and others on the team will work to combine tau labeling with labels to detect specific kinds of neurons in the same tissue.

About the author: Rachel Tompa

Rachel Tompa is a science and health writer and editor. A former molecular biologist, she’s been telling science stories since 2007 and has covered the gamut of science topics, including the microbiome, the human brain, pregnancy, evolution, science policy and infectious disease. During her tenure as Senior Editor at the Allen Institute, Rachel wrote stories and created podcast episodes covering all the Institute’s scientific divisions.

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