Dr. Vijay Rangachari, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at The University of Southern Mississippi, was recently awarded one of the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) most competitive grants, the Research Project Grant or R01. This grant will enable him to further his research on Alzheimer’s disease.
According to the NIH website, the R01 is the oldest grant available. These grants are designed to support health-related research and development. Dr. Rangachari is the only researcher at USM to have been awarded a R01.
“This award will significantly help in forwarding the discoveries we have made, and will allow us to make further new exciting ones,” said Dr. Rangachari.
Dr. Rangachari’s research is focused on better understanding how Alzheimer’s disease affects the brain by working to understand the mechanisms by which toxic amyloid deposits are formed in the brains of Alzheimer disease patients.
In Alzheimer’s disease, a protein in the brain called ‘amyloid-beta’ changes shape or misfolds, then comes together to form clumps or amyloid aggregates within the brain. These clumps kill the neurons and lead to acute memory impairment in Alzheimer’s disease patients.
“This particular project focuses on identifying the shapes and structures of those toxic amyloid aggregates. By identifying the specific shapes and identifying the way they propagate, one can understand the mechanism by which they kill the neurons and spread the pathology within the brain”, said Dr. Rangachari.
USM graduate student Dexter Dean has been working in Dr. Rangachari’s lab for the last four years. He explained that while there are two particular types of proteins which cause Alzheimer’s disease, the protein they are researching, amyloid beta, often also causes restricted blood flow in the brain leading to ischemic stroke among Alzheimer patients.
The goal of Dr. Rangachari’s research is to further understand what and how these are happening in Alzheimer patients.
“This will give us insights into how this is happening which will help later on to develop a drug based on this mechanism,” said Dr. Rangachari. “Unless you know what is happening, you cannot intervene.”
Dr. Rangachari is grateful to the Mississippi IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) for its support of his work. “The funding from INBRE has enormously helped in developing the critical preliminary data needed to put forward this grant,” said Dr. Rangachari.
Mississippi INBRE, directed by Dr. Mohamed Elasri, associate dean and professor in the Southern Miss College of Science and Technology, is a statewide program supported by an award from the National Institutes of General Medical Sciences. Mississippi INBRE’s mission is to enhance the biomedical foundation in Mississippi, and reach out to its residents in order to improve health throughout the state. It also seeks to engage talented researchers and students in biomedical research projects to increase the state’s research competitiveness and positively impact the health of citizens of the state.
For more information about Mississippi INBRE, visit, www.msinbre.org. For information about the USM Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, including more on Dr. Rangachari’s work at the university, visit https://www.usm.edu/chemistry-biochemistry.