Interdisciplinary Initiatives Program Round 7 - 2014

Anne Brunet, Genetics
Judith Frydman, Biology

Aging is characterized by an exponential increase in the onset of diseases, such as Alzheimer’s diseases, in which cells in the brain accumulate damaged and aggregated proteins. Studies in simple model organisms such as yeast or worms have revealed that during aging, the mechanisms by which cells maintain the quality of their proteins diminish, thereby causing aggregates to form. However, very little is known on how aging affects the mechanisms that protect proteins in the brains of mammals. One great challenge in mammals is the complexity of the systems. Our idea to tackle this challenge is to build a toolbox of molecular sensors to measure the different arms of the network that controls the quality of proteins and develop methods to inject those sensors in the brain of mice. This toolbox of sensors will allow us to test how the network that controls the quality of proteins changes with age in the brain. We are particularly interested in exploring whether certain type of cells in the brain, in particular stem cells, are less affected and remain more pristine than neurons during aging. Our innovative toolbox should also provide a way to assess “youthfulness” of the brain and to provide a platform to test drugs or intervention that could restore more youthful characteristics to an old brain. Our study should open new avenues for the maintenance of cognitive function at old age and in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.