Texas Tech University

Nutrition Researchers Receive NIH Funding for Alzheimer's Work

Glenys Young

September 4, 2020

Andrew C. Shin and Vijay Hegde are seeking to identify a novel biomarker and treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.

A pair of Texas Tech University nutrition researchers looking to unlock the mechanisms underlying Alzheimer's disease are getting some help from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).


Andrew C. Shin, an assistant professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences' Neurobiology of Nutrition Laboratory, and Vijay Hegde, also an assistant professor of nutritional sciences, have received a two-year, $415,355 grant from the National Institute on Aging, part of the NIH, to continue their attempts to identify a novel biomarker and treatment for Alzheimer's disease.

"We identified a set of amino acids called branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and their metabolites in the blood that are elevated in Alzheimer's patients compared to those in healthy elderly individuals," Shin said. "We think the impaired ability to efficiently break down these specific amino acids is one potential contributing factor for the high levels observed in Alzheimer's patients."


Because preliminary data suggest these levels are 25%-50% higher in those with Alzheimer's disease, BCAA levels and their metabolites in a person's blood could potentially serve as a diagnostic or predictive marker for the disease. However, they don't just act as a biomarker for Alzheimer's disease; they also could be potential targets for treatment.

"Our data show that BCAAs can directly damage a number of key neuronal functions that are impaired in Alzheimer's disease, indicating that various strategies to lower their levels in blood may be beneficial in treating Alzheimer's patients," Shin said.

A related work also is being funded by a National Science Foundation (NSF) I-Corps grant. Read more about their ongoing research here.