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

March 11, 2022


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. —Rachel Tompa, Ph.D. 

For more about Allen Institute and UW Medicine work on Alzheimer’s disease, check out our recent webinar, Understanding the Cellular Roots of Alzheimer's Disease.