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Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease

Explore how scientists use their knowledge of transcription, immunolabeling, and bioethics to understand Alzheimer’s disease pathology.  

About this unit:

This collection of four lesson plans walks students through how scientists work with donated brain tissue to study how the healthy human brain differs from a brain with Alzheimer’s neuropathology. Throughout these lessons, students are asked to consider both the social and biological contexts of Alzheimer’s disease while looking at data from single brain cells about which genes they are or are not expressing relative to their cellular neighbors in the brain. Students are also guided through an interactive image dataset of immunolabeled brain tissue, allowing students to compare the presence and/or absence of biological hallmarks thought to be associated with Alzheimer’s disease pathology.

Each lesson features a teacher guide with an estimated lesson timeline, a description of what prior knowledge is needed from students, and a list of learning objectives. These lessons also include ready-to-use student worksheets that can be completed individually or in a group/classroom setting. These lessons can be applied in either a remote or in-person classroom setting. These lessons are suitable for introductory to intermediate college-level cell science and/or neuroscience students, or advanced high school students.

This curriculum includes 4 distinct lesson plans. For each lesson plan there is an instructor guide and a student worksheet.

Lesson 1: Brain Donation and Bioethics

    • In this lesson, students are asked to explore the field of bioethics in order to understand the importance of consent within biomedical research.

Lesson 2: The Importance of Basic Research in Brain Science

    • In this lesson, students are challenged to use their knowledge of transcription to explore gene expression between different types of cells within the healthy human brain.

Lesson 3: Societal and Biological Perspectives on Alzheimer’s Disease

    • In this lesson, students are guided through an exploration of real immunolabeled neuropathology images from donors with and without dementia in order to look for the presence and/or absence of neurofibrillary tangles.

Lesson 4: Analyzing Transcriptomic Data to Explore Alzheimer’s Disease Pathology

    • In this lesson, students analyze transcriptomic data to search for possible biological markers of Alzheimer’s disease.





Data used in this unit:

heatmap data image from the Allen Brain Map on RNASeq data from multiple human cortical areas

Allen Cell Types Database

Transcriptomics Explorer
Sections of a healthy human brain (left) and a brain from a patient with Alzheimer’s disease (right).

SEA-AD Alzheimer's Disease

neuropathology and cellxgene