MINNEAPOLIS – October 19, 2017 – The University of Minnesota Medical School’s Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMRR) has been awarded a grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging to understand Alzheimer’s disease in the context of the aging brain. The project will determine the underlying trajectory of brain chemistry which accompanies healthy aging, and will identify which metabolic pathways are abnormal in Alzheimer’s disease.

“Our work will link the biochemistry of aging brain cells to the brain circuits that we can now measure with imaging,” says principal investigator Melissa Terpstra, Ph.D.

“Neurochemistry is intrinsically linked to brain function, with alterations in the former often preceding alterations in the latter. Characterizing such relationships in the healthy aging brain is a pivotal step forward towards understanding what goes wrong in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease,” says principal investigator Silvia Mangia, Ph.D.

The two faculty members have been long-time colleagues at the University, and have been developing this project for more than a decade. The University of Minnesota Medical School is a technological leader in the nationwide to map the complex network of neural connections in the brain and to adapt the imaging technology to study people of all ages.

The grant is part of the National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA), signed into law in 2011. The primary research goal of NAPA is to find effective interventions to treat and prevent Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias by 2025. The experts agree that key steps toward reaching this goal will be to study the complex biology of disease and to understand healthy brain aging and cognitive resilience. The team in Minnesota will study the underlying biochemistry of how brain aging is involved in Alzheimer’s disease progression.

“Using the powerful technology available to us at the University of Minnesota, we hope to pick up abnormal brain chemistry before permanent disease-associated brain damage starts,” says Dr. Terpstra. “Ultimately, we hope to ward off dementia before it sets in.”

Collaborating University of Minnesota research teams include the CMRR (M. Marjanska, S. Michaeli., E. Yacoub, D. Deelchand), the Department of Biostatistics (L. Eberly), and the Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center (GRECC) at the Minneapolis VA Health Care System (J. R. McCarten, M.D. and L. S. Hemmy, Ph.D.) and also the Mayo Clinic in Rochester’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (D. Jones, M.D.).

NIH Grant Number: R01AG055591


The Center for Magnetic Resonance Research focuses on the development of unique magnetic resonance (MR) imaging and spectroscopy methodologies and instrumentation for the acquisition of structural, functional, and biochemical information non-invasively in humans, and utilizing this capability to investigate organ function in health and disease.

CONTACT: Naomi McDonald, Director of Communications, University of Minnesota Medical School, naomim@umn.edu, (612) 301-9525.