The onset of a disease and of age-related changes in brain function can be affected both by the structure of a gene (and therefore of the protein for which it is the blueprint) and by the extent of its expression–whether it makes the appropriate amount of protein for the optimal function of cells in which it is made. Scientists across the National Institutes of Health are participating in the Brain Molecular Anatomy Project (BMAP) which is intended to identify and catalog the repertoire of genes expressed in the nervous system and to develop the technology needed to assess the differences in expression during various developmental stages, in aging, and in diseases of the nervous system. Several NIH institutes are starting by cataloging the genes in the mouse brain. NIA will encourage scientists to address molecular changes in aging and disease in humans and non-human primates.
By constructing molecular profiles, or fingerprints, of brain cells, scientists will be able to correlate gene expression levels in defined populations of cells with the clinical state of individuals and the pathology present in their brains. This will provide significant new insights into the underlying mechanisms of diseases of the nervous system, and in time, should yield new approaches to treatment. The NIA is particularly interested in identifying new genes and in learning about the ways genes are expressed in healthy aging and in age-related diseases, such as AD. In March 1998, Institute scientists participated in a workshop to review the current status of the field and to define priorities for the BMAP project, and it is supporting several research teams that are examining specific topics in this area.
National Institutes of Health
National Institute on Aging
1999 PROGRESS REPORT ON ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE