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2013 Geoffrey Beene Global NeuroDiscovery Challenge

Does gender matter in Alzheimer's disease? Why are women more at risk? We won't know unless we ask.

Scientists from more than 23 countries have submissions that made the first round cut in the 2013 Geoffrey Beene Global NeuroDiscovery challenge’s search for answers. A panel of scientific experts has selected the top finalists.

Now it's your turn to judge who gets an extra $50,000 to find the answers.

The winner will be selected from combined online/live voting that will run November 1-5. The live vote/winner announcement will take place on November 7th.

The online voting for the award is presented by the 21st Century BrainTrust™ founding partners to increase awareness about research into biologic sex differences between men and women in Alzheimer’s disease: BrightFocus Foundation, Geoffrey Beene Foundation Alzheimer’s Initiative, and USAgainstAlzheimers(USA2).


Enrico Glaab, Ph.D.

Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine, University of Luxembourg, Luxembourg

Dr. Enrico Glaab

Male/Female Differences in Aging Brains in a Gene For Ubiquitin-Specific Peptidase 9 (USP9) as a Possible Cause for Increased Incidence of Alzheimer’s Disease in Older Women

Aging is considered one of the primary risk factors for Alzheimer’s Disease. Studies of the aging human brain show that changes in gene expression may be different between men and women. This investigator analyzed two datasets and looked for genes that are deregulated only in aging men and only in aging women in Alzheimer’s compared to unaffected controls.

Aging is considered one of the primary risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease. Studies of the aging human brain show that changes in gene expression may be different between men and women. Preliminary data suggested that a number of genes expressed differed according to sex and Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Top amongst these was a gene, USP9Y, only present on men’s Y chromosomes. Supportive findings come from other studies that show that USP9 is known for involvement in multiple pathways related to Alzheimer’s. These include the well-known Tau protein, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s, as well as SIRT1, a gene also linked with more general longevity. The innovative hypothesis is that USP9Y is important to men and may be protective against Alzheimer’s disease, perhaps explaining increased risks in women. Dr. Glaab and his team will seek to verify and these findings by data-mining other datasets in males only and also extending this work to cell cultures and animal mouse models.

Herve Rhinn, Ph.D. and Asa Abeliovich, M.D., Ph.D.

Department of Pathology, Columbia University

Dr. Herve RhinnDr. Asa Abeliovich

SCARB1 as a Mediator Of Male/Female Differences in Alzheimer’s Disease

In biology, it’s important to separate differences that cause disease from those that are simply a disease symptom. This team applied this question to examining gene expression databases for sex-based differences in Alzheimer's disease patients and healthy brains. In doing so, they identified a previously unstudied gene, SCARB1. SCARB1 facilitates cholesterol distribution, a process that has long been implicated in Alzheimer's disease. To predict the importance of SCARB1, they developed a process that ranks the importance of finding different numbers of given molecules against other factors like whether that molecule interacts with other differentially expressed genes. The innovation is around a set of computational tools that allow researchers to cut through a fog of data to find genes whose changes happen early in the course of the disease. This project proposes to expand their analysis to new datasets, and begin the process of testing SCARB1 for association with Alzheimer's disease in living systems.

John Quackenbush, Ph.D. and Dr. Kimberly Glass, Ph.D.

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA

Dr. John QuackenbushDr. Kimberly Glass

Male/Female Differences in Alzheimer’s Disease Have Unique Changes in Cellular Networks

A cell’s health is defined by complex networks of interacting elements. Traditional research has been hampered by difficulties in relating stresses on one network to effects in distant, but related networks. Building on earlier work, this project hypothesizes that network differences can identify male and female features of healthy brain tissue. Further, the preliminary findings suggest that male and female networks are different when healthy, but break down, becoming similar as Alzheimer’s progresses. The innovation of their technology, PANDA (Passing Attributes between Networks for Data Assimilation) lies in its predictive ability, anticipating unexpected communication between networks. As new data sources are gathered, the models update and provide a more complete picture of nuanced activities that can explain the overall biological response.Their proposal seeks to expand their technology to new databases in order to better predict sex-based differences in Alzheimer’s.

Last Review: 04/01/14

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