Kent State professor to share research on Alzheimer’s disease

Victoria Manenti

Associate professor of biology Gemma Casadesus Smith will present research on preventing Alzheimer’s disease at Kent State’s Neuroscience of Aging Symposium April 10.

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive form of dementia that results in loss of memory and brain skills required to perform daily tasks. An estimated 5 million Americans age 65 and older suffer from the incurable disease, according to the National Institute on Aging website.

Smith will discuss how low metabolic function and the reduced levels of certain hormones can increase a person’s risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. Aging and poor eating habits can adversely affect several of these same hormones, which also regulate sugar within the body, known as developing insulin resistance. The body can become insulin resistant or leptin resistant as a result, negatively contributing to weight control and sugar regulation, she said.

“So my work focuses on not so much looking at insulin and the function of insulin in the brain, but because we know that we become insulin resistant, or there is lack of insulin function in the brain, I look at hormones that increase the sensitivity of insulin and that means that you need less to get more done,” Smith said.

Her research also examines how people with Alzheimer’s disease have lower levels of amylin, another hormone that helps regulate insulin sensitivity, than those who don’t have the disease or other brain functioning impairments, she said. When Alzheimer’s diseased mice were treated with amylin, Smith found their memory and learning skills improved.

“For me, it’s very important to start with therapy,” Smith said. “A lot of people start with a gene, and then they knock it out and then they look at the proteins and then eventually they look at the behavior. I do it the other way around. So I take something, I see if it works and then if it works, we take our time looking at how it works. What is it doing that it’s improving learning and memory.”

The symposium, which is the third annual event, will be held at the Kent State University Hotel and Conference Center April 9-10. Registration for the event is free and open to the public.

Contact Victoria Manenti at [email protected].