West receives grant from Ruth K. Broad Research Foundation for Alzheimer research

October 7, 2021

Anne West, MD, PhD, professor of neurobiology, received a Faculty Scholar Award from the Ruth K Broad Biomedical Research Foundation to study noncoding regulation of gene transcription in human neurons.

This three-year, $375,000 grant will leverage what researchers already know about cellular mechanisms that promote neuronal survival and work to develop therapeutics that slow down neuronal death or support the function of remaining neurons.

The West lab will use the powerful gene editing tool CRISPR with a deactivated Cas9 protein (dCas9) in human induced neuronal cultures to test the hypothesis that transcriptional regulation of a BDNF antisense transcript, encoded by a species-specific long-noncoding RNA, directly modulates the expression and function of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in human neurons. She will also collaborate with neurosurgeon Derek Southwell to test for single cell co-expression of both transcripts using quantitative single molecule fluorescence in situ (smFISH) in human brain tissue. Through this work, West and team hope to build a foundation for future therapeutic advances that promote neuronal health and survival.

“This is our first venture working in human neurons,” West said, “and I am excited to keep pushing the lab in this new direction.” 

The Ruth K. Broad Biomedical Research Foundation, Inc., a support corporation of Duke University, funds research in the neurosciences with a specific focus on investigation that may advance the knowledge or treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.