Student Spotlight: Andrew Ortiz and Amanda Leisgang-Osse Take On Alzheimer's

Graduate Student Researchers Andrew Ortiz and Amanda Leisgang-Osse
Graduate Student Researchers Andrew Ortiz and Amanda Leisgang-Osse
Sep. 30, 2021

By Andrea Roa (UNLV School of Integrated Health Sciences Director of Communications)

Alzheimer's Disease currently affects over 6 million Americans. Unfortunately, that number is continuing to rise but two dedicated UNLV graduate students at the School of Integrated Health Sciences are working to find solutions. Amanda Leisgang-Osse and Andrew Ortiz can be found working at the Cellular and Molecular Brain Research Laboratory under the direction of Jefferson Kinney. "The Department of Brain Health is the hub for neuroscience at UNLV. In my laboratory, our research staff, graduate students, and undergraduate researchers like Andrew and Amanda have been invaluable to all the work we've done," said Kinney. The research Leisgang-Osse and Ortiz conduct focus on different elements of Alzheimer's Disease; Osse focuses on neuroinflammation, a key hallmark of the disease, while Ortiz investigates major risk factors.

Neuroinflammation has been shown to play a vital role in the initiation and progression of Alzheimer's Disease pathologies. Leisgang-Osse's research focuses on identifying and evaluating inflammatory-related proteins that could contribute to the disease. Specifically, her research has demonstrated changes in a target receptor in Alzheimer's Disease, supporting its contribution to disease pathology. Given that two-thirds of Alzheimer's Disease patients are women, her work examines differences in mechanisms between males and females, which is essential to understanding how gender influences the disease.

Individuals with diabetes are up to 4-times more likely to develop Alzheimer's Disease; approximately 80% of individuals who have Alzheimer's Disease have type II diabetes or impaired fasting glucose (sugar) in the brain. Ortiz's research investigates potential mechanisms of diabetes that contribute to the foundation of Alzheimer's disease. Specifically, he examines how hyperglycemia (i.e., high sugar levels in the blood) initiates neuroinflammation and how they both independently and collectively exacerbate Alzheimer's Disease-related pathology. Together, the research that both Osse and Ortiz conduct contributes to developing novel therapeutics and potential biomarkers for early detection that is helping to topple Alzheimer's Disease.

 

Interested in learning more about Alzheimer's? Join our panel of experts on the 4th Wednesday of the month (Oct-Dec) for the Brain Health and You - A Lunchtime Forum series. 

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