An associate professor of biological sciences at Marquette University has received a $950,000 grant for her research into certain aging disorders. 

Disorders including Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and Parkinson’s disease are linked to proteins that are incorrectly formed, or misfolded, and aggregated in areas of the body including the brain. Dr. Anita Manogaran received the grant funding from the National Science Foundation to study how cells respond to these proteins. 

In a release from the university, she notes that “you never see” these diseases in young people. 

“This means that young cells know how to take care of these damaging protein aggregates, and old cells are just not that good at it,” she said. “However, if we can understand what goes on in young cells, we should be able to unlock what is going wrong in old cells.”

Manogaran and fellow scientists will study how cells respond to these protein aggregates by using a structure called the cytoskeleton to organize and shift them into different parts of the cell. The research effort will focus on how factors such as age and environmental stress play a role in these response mechanisms. 

Dr. Heidi Bostic, dean of the Klingler College of Arts and Sciences at Marquette University, says the project could have a “tremendous influence in research on neurodegenerative diseases by expanding the knowledge of their causes at the cellular level.” 

The NSF funding will support the research effort, as well as integration of certain related experiments into an undergraduate course at Marquette University in Milwaukee and Madison-based Lakeland University. 

See more on the work done at Manogaran’s lab: https://www.marquette.edu/biology/directory/manogaran.php 

–By Alex Moe

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