continue studies into aging and cognition
Newswise — Learning more about the
decline in learning and memory that can accompany aging is the focus
of a $6.2 million grant Wake Forest University School of Medicine
has been awarded from the National Institute on Aging.
“We will address key changes in
the brain that contribute to cognitive decline and forms of dementia
commonly observed in the elderly, including Alzheimer’s disease,”
said William E. Sonntag, Ph.D., project leader. He is a professor in
the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology.
The five-year grant will allow
researchers to continue studies in rodents to learn more about the
biological basis for cognitive decline with age.
The research team
focuses on several hormones, such as human growth hormone and
insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), that decline naturally with
They have shown previously that levels of these hormones are an
important contributing factor in the decline in learning and memory
with age and that restoring these hormones improves learning and
memory in older animals. Other scientists have confirmed their
findings in elderly humans.
The research team uses a special
strain of dwarf rats that are naturally deficient in both growth
hormone and IGF-1. The animals will be treated with the hormones to
determine how these hormones affect cognitive function and to
establish their specific mechanisms of action.
The researchers have previously
shown that these hormones increase blood flow, regulate the
replacement of damaged cells and improve cell-to-cell communication
within the brain. Studies over the next five years will focus on
whether these hormones improve function of blood vessels, and
cell-to-cell communication and reduce inflammation that normally
increases with age.
Co-investigators are Judy
Brunso-Bechtold, Ph.D., neurobiology and anatomy, David Riddle,
Ph.D., neurobiology and anatomy, Delrae Eckman, Ph.D., pediatrics,
Michelle Nicolle, Ph.D., gerontology, and Haiying Chen, Ph.D.,
public health sciences.
Wake Forest University Baptist
Medical Center is an academic health system comprised of North
Carolina Baptist Hospital and Wake Forest University Health
Sciences, which operates the university’s School of Medicine. U.S.
News & World Report ranks Wake Forest University School of Medicine
18th in family medicine, 20th in geriatrics, 25th in primary care
and 41st in research among the nation's medical schools. It ranks
32nd in research funding by the National Institutes of Health.
Almost 150 members of the medical school faculty are listed in Best
Doctors in America.