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Associate Professor, Salk Institute for Biological Studies

Nicola Allen studies the cells in the brain, specifically a type of cell called an astrocyte, which are essential for supporting neuronal function throughout our lives. In aging and Alzheimer’s disease, astrocytes change their properties in ways that can damage neurons.

The Allen Lab has identified specific signals made by astrocytes in the healthy brain that enable neurons to communicate with each other, and others that inhibit this communication. Dr. Allen wants to know whether these signals can be used to stimulate new neuronal connections to form in Alzheimer’s disease or protect the connections that are there from being lost. If successful, this would provide new targets for therapeutic development.

“My grandmother had Alzheimer’s. Every few months my mum asks me if I’ve cured Alzheimer’s yet, so that is pretty motivating.

“The support from Cure Alzheimer’s Fund is essential for our work. It is supporting a project in its early stages and will allow us to determine whether the pathway we are studying is important in Alzheimer’s disease or not. If it is, then the support will have enabled us to generate enough data to apply for future funding.”

To hear Dr. Allen discuss her research and get an audio tour of her lab to learn about the process of scientific discovery, click here.

To learn more about the Allen Lab, click here.