PICALM - Investigating a new gene for Alzheimer's

Read about a research project we funded on the role of picalm in amyloid-beta clearance.

Lead Investigator: Dr Shabnam Baig
Institution: University of Bristol
Grant Type: Credit Suisse Fellowship
Duration: 3 years
Amount funded: £176,657

What was the project, and what did the researchers do?

Researchers are gradually unavailing a variety of genes that increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. One such gene that has recently been discovered and is associated with Alzheimer's disease is called PICALM. 

This gene makes a protein called Picalm, thought to play an important role in moving amyloid-beta, which forms plaques in Alzheimer's disease, out of the brain via blood vessels.

Dr Baig investigated whether there was a relationship between the amount of Picalm protein produced by both nerve cells and cells lining the blood vessels, and the amount of amyloid-beta present in the brain. 

To do this, she compared the amounts of Picalm and amyloid-beta proteins in brain tissue from both people with Alzheimer's disease and healthy donors. She also grew blood-vessel lining cells in the lab and modified the amounts of Picalm and amyloid-beta produced to see the effects this had on the cells.

What were the key results, and how will this help in the fight against dementia?

Dr Baig found that there was no relationship between the amount of Picalm and amyloid-beta proteins both in the brain tissues and in the blood-vessel lining cells grown in the lab. 

It was thought that Picalm would affect this, and that it was this relationship that caused the gene to increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease. However, the findings here show that not to be the case. This suggests that the Picalm protein must be involved in a different process that results in an increased the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. 

What happened next? Future work and additional grants

Dr. Shabnam Baig hopes to continue her career in scientific research.

How were people told about the results? Conferences and publications

The results will be communicated to the public via a manuscript that is to be submitted to a scientific journal. 

Funding for this Fellowship

The Society would like to thank Credit Suisse for their generosity in supporting this Fellowship.

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