A Novel Approach to Understanding Alzheimer's Disease Pathogenesis
The Greer Lab is broadly interested in the fundamental questions of how animals sense and interpret exteroceptive and interoceptive chemical signals to generate appropriate organismal responses and seeks to understand how these processes are disrupted in human neurological disorders. To address these questions we are taking a number of approaches including characterizing novel mechanisms by which the olfactory system senses behaviorally relevant external odors and translates this information into behavioral actions (e.g., how does a mouse know to run away from a cat).
In parallel to this work in the olfactory system, we are also investigating how interoceptive chemical cues are detected by microglia, the resident immune cells of the nervous system. Microglia represent approximately 10% of the cells in the brain and have been implicated in a variety of nervous system processes ranging from immune responses to pathogens to synaptic development and refinement. In addition to their role in physiological settings, microglia are also thought to play a critical role in a variety of devastating human neurological disorders including Parkinson’s Disease, ALS, and Alzheimer’s Disease. In our work supported by the Searle Scholars Program, we seek to elucidate the mechanisms by which microglia sense chemical ligands in their environment and to understand how a failure to detect these ligands correctly contributes to neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s Disease.