January 2024 Newsletter

USC Center for Personalized Brain Health Pioneers New Path in Alzheimer’s Prevention and Treatment

In our quest for advancements in Alzheimer’s prevention and treatment, we’re thrilled to share developments from USC’s Keck School of Medicine. The newly established USC Center for Personalized Brain Health is set to revolutionize our approach to Alzheimer’s—with a focus on early intervention and prevention, the center will translate genetic, metabolic, and molecular insights into actionable strategies.

Understanding the Challenge Ahead:
As the aging population grows, Alzheimer’s disease is poised to become a significant health challenge. Current projections estimate a tripling of affected Americans—reaching 16 million by 2050. Despite new FDA-approved treatments becoming available, they offer only limited relief for early-stage disease. The irreversible damage to memory remains a formidable obstacle for future research.

USC Center for Personalized Brain Health: 
Enter the USC Center for Personalized Brain Health, an interdisciplinary initiative led by endocrinologist Dr. Hussein Yassine. The center’s primary goal is to intervene decades before Alzheimer’s damage sets in, offering hope and resources to individuals at risk.

The APOE4 Connection:
The center’s foundation rests on the relatively common genetic variant of the APOE gene, APOE4. This variant, carried by one in four people, significantly increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Those with two copies of the gene face a staggering eight to twelve times greater risk. Besides changing how the brain utilizes fats, APOE4 increases brain inflammation. The USC Center for Personalized Brain Health aims to shift the narrative, providing resources to individuals long before dementia takes hold.

Key Initiatives at the Center:

• Building an APOE4 Registry: Establishing a registry of APOE4 carriers will create a comprehensive database for research and intervention.

• Early Detection Imaging: Utilizing cutting-edge imaging techniques to detect early brain changes will allow for intervention before symptoms appear or worsen.

• Personalized Interventions: Developing tailored interventions, including dietary and exercise plans, will reduce Alzheimer’s risk.

• Alzheimer’s Profiling: Profiling changes that precede clinical symptoms will offer insights into Alzheimer’s progression.

• Neuroinflammation Drug Development: Focusing on developing drugs that will target neuroinflammation once clinical dementia ensues.

Translating Lab Findings to Clinical Care:
The Center for Personalized Brain Health bridges the gap between basic science and clinical impact. Capitalizing on existing research infrastructure, the center will work in collaboration with other USC research institutes including the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute, the Mark and Mary Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute, the Alzheimer’s Therapeutic Research Institute, and the Alzheimer Disease Research Center.

Omega-3s and Alzheimer’s Prevention: 
Dr. Yassine’s research on omega-3 fatty acids, particularly in APOE4 carriers, has unveiled a potential preventive strategy. The PreventE4 Trial investigates whether early administration of omega-3s can slow disease progression. Though far from over, preliminary data demonstrates promising results for this intervention.

The Gut-Brain Axis and Omega-3s

As an extension of the PreventE4 Trial, Dr. Yassine in collaboration with the Alzheimer Gut Microbiome Project are investigating whether the bacteria living in our guts can change omega-3’s effect on disease progression. Although the analysis is just beginning, we have reason to believe that a healthier gut will enhance the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids.

Novel Drug Development – BRI-50054: 
A promising lead in drug development stems from the breakdown of omega-3s in APOE4 dementia brains. The team, including Dr. Vsevolod Katritch and Dr. Stan Louie, is exploring BRI-50054, which reversed omega-3 breakdown in lab studies, as a potential Alzheimer’s treatment. 

Early Warning Signs – Navigation Errors:
Exploring potential early warning signs, the center is collaborating on a project using wearable devices to detect navigation errors among APOE4 carriers. “There may be digital footprints that can tell us that something is off,” Yassine said. “We want to see if we can capture those changes early and get information that will allow us to intervene.” Since difficulty navigating oneself is an early sign of dementia, this innovative approach may provide early indications of Alzheimer’s-related behavioral changes.

USC GeneScreen – A Call to Action:
Additionally, the center introduces USC GeneScreen. To build a robust cohort of APOE4 carries, the center is inviting individuals aged 40 and above in the Los Angeles area to participate in this initiative. A dedicated clinic will be launching in 2024, where APOE4 carries will be provided with personalized care recommendations.

In conclusion, the USC Center for Personalized Brain Health emerges as a beacon of hope, combining diverse expertise to create a future where Alzheimer’s patients will have a higher quality of life. Together, we can reshape the landscape of Alzheimer’s research and care.

Thank you and Until Next Time,

The Yassine Lab

To find publications and learn more, please visit: yassinelab.com

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