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Professor, Harvard Medical School, Department of Pathology, Boston Children’s Hospital

Maria Lehtinen studies the choroid plexus–cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) system. CSF bathes the brain in fluid and is secreted by the choroid plexus. The choroid plexus also provides an important protective barrier that prevents harmful factors in the body’s blood from entering the brain.

Dr. Lehtinen’s lab is exploring how the choroid plexus produces and protects the CSF, which can penetrate deep into the brain to affect brain function, and how this function is altered during inflammation— a factor emerging as a key aspect of Alzheimer’s disease.

In collaboration with Dr. Liisa Myllykangas, a neuropathologist and CureAlz-funded researcher, Dr. Lehtinen anticipates that their experimental approaches will expand our understanding of the involvement of choroid plexus inflammation in Alzheimer’s disease progression, and provide a critical real-time screening platform for future testing of Alzheimer’s disease therapies on choroid plexus brain barrier integrity and brain inflammation. In the future, the two hope to incorporate neurologists and pharmacologists into their team so they can quickly pass the baton from one expert to another.

“Alzheimer’s disease is a particularly challenging problem to solve. Even before I was motivated by personal experiences relating to Alzheimer’s disease, I was very much drawn to thinking about how my research could be applied to the field of Alzheimer’s disease research.

“For basic research, the biggest question is the challenge of identifying the earliest trigger of disease pathophysiology. While we have been looking under the lamppost of the brain, do we need to cast the net more widely to the brain and its barriers, or even beyond? And while the earliest event may not be the most amenable drug target, it is critical for the establishment of disease pathology, and will help identify which targets are the drivers of brain pathology.

“Overall, science involves many more failures than successes, and therefore achieving any success requires a certain kind of perseverance. The more shots on goal that are possible, the more likely everyone is to succeed. Similar to any sports team (nod to ’Ted Lasso’), excellent teamwork within and across laboratories is critical to the success of this mission!

“As a developmental neurobiologist, I have always hoped that my research could make a contribution to Alzheimer’s disease. Support from Cure Alzheimer’s Fund now makes this a possibility!”

Read a deeper dive with Dr. Lehtinen into this “unsung hero” of the brain and its “highly gifted juice” by clicking here.

To learn more about the Lehtinen Lab, click here.

Dr. Lehtinen explains her work in this video for a symposium with fellow Cure Alzheimer’s Fund researcher Dr. Maiken Nedergaard.