Tristan Qingyun Li, PhD, has received a $2.8 million R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health. The Li Lab studies microglia, the brain’s resident immune cells, and their functions in development, aging and disease, including psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders. The new funding will go toward defining the role of a subset of microglia in late-onset Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
Researchers have established links between mutations in microglia-specific genes and an elevated risk for Alzheimer’s disease. One subset of these cells, called disease-associated microglia, surrounds amyloid plaques—clumps of proteins indicative of Alzheimer’s disease—in mouse models of the disorder and amplifies the activity of genes related to AD. Li’s goal is to trace the origins and function of disease-associated microglia in the context of Alzheimer’s and determine how gene activity related to the disease is regulated in these cells.
“These results will provide mechanistic insights into selective subpopulations of microglia that may control AD progression, ultimately paving a new avenue for the development of precise microglia-based interventions to treat AD,” said Li.