Research Highlight September 04, 2015

Howell to generate more accurate Alzheimer’s disease models

Assistant Professor Gareth Howell, Ph.D., received a two-year grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) to more accurately model the role of the human complement cascade for disease research. Howell is particularly interested in investigating how the complement cascade contributes to Alzheimer’s disease.

As its name implies, the complement cascade is a complex signaling process that is an important part of the immune response to pathogens. Its dysfunction has been implicated in inflammation and several neurological and immune disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease. Because key components of the cascade pathway differ between mice and humans, however, research into its roles and mechanisms in human diseases has been extremely difficult.

Howell will use the funding to engineer mice to carry a receptor, CR1, that regulates the human complement cascade and is not found in mice, as well as human genetic sequences that control how much receptor is produced. With these and other human immune components present in the mice, Howell will be able to study neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, with far more accuracy and relevance to human medicine than was previously possible.