NDSU researcher awarded $1.89 million grant for Alzheimer’s study

December 6, 2016 – Fargo, North Dakota – Jagdish Singh, chair and professor in pharmaceutical sciences in the College of Health Professions at North Dakota State University, is receiving a $1.89 million grant award for an Alzheimer’s disease study. The goal of the research is to develop a new delivery system that uses neurotrophic growth factor to treat and prevent Alzheimer’s disease. The grant from the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health spans five years.

The most common type of dementia in elderly populations, Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of such cases. More than 46 million people worldwide live with dementia, and numbers are expected to increase to 131.5 million by 2050. Global costs to manage dementia will reach $1 trillion, according to a 2015 report from Alzheimer’s Disease International.

“Although gene therapy possesses potential to treat various neurodegenerative diseases, its clinical application is limited, primarily by methods that efficiently deliver the therapeutic gene across the blood brain barrier,” said Singh.

The brain possesses what amounts to its own security system. The blood brain barrier protects the brain from substances that may injure it. That same mechanism can provide challenges when treating Alzheimer’s and other diseases. The blood brain barrier lets some materials cross, but prevents others from doing so. Drugs or gene therapy that might help treat certain diseases such as Alzheimer’s may not breach the barrier, or may not cross the blood brain barrier in amounts that are therapeutic. Singh uses nanotechnology-based delivery systems to deliver the Nerve Growth Factor gene across the blood brain barrier to assist in treatment and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.

The neurotrophin family includes Nerve Growth Factor—part of a group of protein-like molecules that develop new neurons and help maintain mature neurons for optimal brain function. Results of a small clinical trial published in the journal JAMA Neurology last year, showed some beneficial effects of injecting the Nerve Growth Factor gene, which rescued dying cells around the injection site in Alzheimer’s patients.

The research at North Dakota State University includes Dr. Takahisa Kanekiyo of Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, Florida as co-principal investigator. The NDSU research team is focusing on designing a gene delivery carrier that efficiently delivers the Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) to the brain in an effort to prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease. The study will be conducted in vitro and in vivo in Alzheimer’s animal models.

 “By developing a mechanism to more efficiently deliver Nerve Growth Factor across the blood brain barrier, strides can be made to more effectively treat diseases such as Alzheimer’s, which will continue to be a significant global health issue far into the future,” said Singh.

The grant award to Dr. Singh at NDSU totals $1,895,625 over the five-year period. As professor and chair of the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences in the NDSU School of Pharmacy, Singh is a Fellow of American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists (AAPS) and Fellow of the Association of Biotechnology and Pharmacy. His research has been published in more than 175 peer-reviewed papers and 350 abstracts. Singh began his career at NDSU in 1994 and has served as department chair in pharmaceutical sciences since 2002. He has received multiple research and teacher of the year awards at NDSU.  He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in pharmacy, and a Ph.D. in pharmaceutics from the BHU Institute of Technology, Varanasi, India.

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The research titled “Brain Neurotrophic Growth Factor Delivery to Prevent and Treat Alzheimer’s Disease” is supported by the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R01AG051574. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.     

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