Researchers led by Arizona State University (ASU) and the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) have identified altered expression of a gene called ANK1, which only recently has been associated with memory-robbing Alzheimer's disease, in specific cells in the brain. Using an extremely precise method of isolating cells called "laser capture microdissection," researchers looked at three specific cell types -- microglia, astrocytes, and neurons -- in the brain tissue of individuals with a pathological diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, and compared them to brain samples from healthy individuals and those with Parkinson's disease. Following sequencing of each of these cell types, the ASU-TGen led team found that altered ANK1 expression originates in microglia, a type of immune cell found in the brain and central nervous system, according to the study published online on July 12, 2017 in PLOS ONE. The open-access article is titled “ANK1 Is Up-Regulated in Laser Captured Microglia in Alzheimer’s Brain; The Importance of Addressing Cellular Heterogeneity.” "Although previous genetic and epigenetic-wide association studies had shown a significant association between ANK1 and AD, they were unable to identify the class of cells that may be responsible for such association because of the use of brain homogenates. Here, we provide evidence that microglia are the source of the previously observed differential expression patterns in the ANK1 gene in Alzheimer's disease," said Dr. Diego Mastroeni, an Assistant Research Professor at Biodesign's ASU-Banner Neurodegenerative Disease Research Center, and the study's lead author. All three of the cell types in this study were derived from the hippocampus, a small looping structure shaped like a seahorse (its name derives from the Greek words for horse and sea monster).
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