Congratulations to Dr. Mark Cembrowski, who has been awarded a 2024 Alzheimer Society Research Program (ASRP) New Investigator Operating Grant. His project titled ‘A “tipping point” neuron type driving Alzheimer’s Disease progression’ will explore new ways to advance our knowledge of dementia and ultimately help to develop new treatments.

“I am honoured to be one of the recipients of the Alzheimer Society’s New Investigator Operating Grant,” says Dr. Cembrowski, an Assistant Professor in UBC’s Department of Cellular & Physiological Sciences and researcher at the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health. “I hope my research project will contribute to improving the quality of life for people living with dementia, their families and caregivers.”

Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is a progressive disease, characterized by increasing impairments in memory and cognition. A hallmark of AD is the buildup of a protein called beta amyloid in the brain, but it is not clear what is responsible for this buildup and how it can lead to problems with memory. Understanding which specific brain cells cause disease is crucial for finding new ways to treat AD.

“In our preliminary research, we have discovered a new “tipping point” neuron type that has molecular, cellular and circuit properties which appear to play a major role in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease,” notes Dr. Cembrowski.

This cell type is found specifically within the subiculum, which is one of the first areas in the brain to show damage in AD. These cells form long-range connections to other AD-vulnerable brain regions and are found to be more active than normal, which may cause amyloid beta to spread more quickly.

“Leveraging our multidisciplinary mouse and human research, our project aims to provide a unique perspective into the neural mechanisms of Alzheimer’s disease emerging from this unusual neuron type,” says Dr. Cembrowski. “We hope to use this knowledge to develop and test new interventions that can slow disease progression.”

The New Investigator Operating Grant is a prestigious funding opportunity designed to help launch the careers of outstanding researchers who are entering their first phase of an academic appointment. The ASRP is made possible by the Canada Brain Research Fund, an innovative arrangement between the Government of Canada (through Health Canada), the Brain Canada Foundation, and the Alzheimer Society of Canada. The program’s goal is to help serve people living with dementia and caregivers, to better understand dementia and find ways to mitigate against it.