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Protecting the aging beagle brain

Contributed by Hamsi Radhakrishnan

Organ transplant recipients are significantly less likely to develop dementia compared to the general population; perhaps because the drugs they take to suppress their immune system to prevent donor organ rejection could also be curbing neuroinflammation.

To assess whether these drugs could be repurposed as dementia-preventing medication in middle-aged adults, we studied the effects one year treatment with the FDA-approved immunosuppressant Tacrolimus had on the beagle brain.

Using advanced diffusion MRI, we found that tacrolimus protected against aging-related microstructural changes that are often associated with cognitive decline, specifically in the hippocampus, parahippocampal cortex, prefrontal cortex and white matter tracts.

These findings suggest that tacrolimus and other such immunosuppressants may be promising as preventative intervention for Alzheimer’s Disease.

Click here to read the study, published in J Neuroscience

Hamsi (hum-see) Radhakrishnan is a Ph.D. Candidate in Dr. Craig Stark’s Lab in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior. She uses MRI to understand how the structural properties of the brain change with age, disease, and cognitive differences. She also serves as the co-chair for the K-12 Ambassador Committee in the Center for Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, where they host events to get children excited about science! When not doing science and outreach, she enjoys poetry, cooking, board games, and watching especially terrible romantic comedies (the cheesier the better, obviously).