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Datta Receives Grant from Alzheimer's Association to Study Protein that Could Aid Early Detection

August 23, 2023
by Jordan Sisson

Dibyadeep Datta, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry, has been awarded a grant from the Alzheimer’s Association to study how a specific protein present in patients with Alzheimer’s disease may aid in early detection of the illness before symptoms are present, thereby improving treatment outcomes.

One of the limitations in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease is that treatment often begins too late in the course of the illness, Datta said. However, recent research has suggested that testing for elevated levels of phosphorylated tau at T217 (pT217-tau) in cerebrospinal fluid and blood plasma can allow for early detection of Alzheimer’s disease before cognitive deficits appear, enabling faster intervention.

pT217-tau in blood plasma has been shown to distinguish Alzheimer’s disease from other neurodegenerative disorders with high diagnostic accuracy and was more accurate than other blood-based tests; still, the role of pT217-tau in brain pathology and the underlying molecular mechanisms that mediate its emergence is unknown, Datta explained.

“The overarching consensus in the field is the notion that effective therapeutic benefit of various drugs in the pipeline must be initiated during the early prodromal, asymptomatic stage of the disease. A critical aspect of this approach is contingent on fluid-based biomarkers that are scalable and can be targeted towards a broader aging population for early identification of at-risk individuals who might develop dementia,” Datta said.

The three-year grant will allow Datta and his team to examine when and where pT217-tau emerges in the brain, its relationship with calcium dysfunction, and whether pT217-tau transforms from early, soluble forms that can traffic between neurons, where it may enter the cerebrospinal fluid and blood and, eventually, undergoing fibrillation to cause tangles inside neurons – a characteristic of Alzheimer's disease.

Datta’s research focuses on understanding the molecular alterations and underlying causes of the neurobiology of neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders that contribute to cognitive dysfunction. He began at Yale in the Department of Neuroscience as a postdoctoral researcher in 2016 and joined the faculty as an associate research scientist in 2021. He joined the Department of Psychiatry in 2022.

Submitted by Jordan Sisson on August 22, 2023