Enviromental Enrichment of APP Transgenic Mice
Several studies have suggested that environmental factors can influence the development of AD. However, detailed historical information is not available for most of the population, making it difficult to discern the relationship between specific environmental factors and AD. Dr. Jankowsky is using a simple animal model that has some of the pathological features of AD to examine the extent to which environmental surroundings can influence the evolution of the disease. In this case mice that carry either the mutant APP gene alone or mutant APP and PS1 together are being examined in a controlled setting, to try to determine the extent to which environmental stimuli can influence the evolution of brain pathology. Previous studies by several laboratories have shown that "enriching" the mouse habitat with toys and playmates can lead to changes in the brains of normal rodents that are indicative of increased neurologic activity. Dr. Jankowsky hypothesizes that housing experimental mice with AD in enriched environments will lead to increased neurologic activity and will allow her to examine the role of brain activity in the evolution of AD. In addition, further experiments are planned to examine the role of an enriched environment on amyloid beta production, plaque formation, synapse formation, and learning and memory. These experiments can provide insight into the potential for human environmental factors such as social interaction, mental activity, and exercise to influence the onset and outcome of AD. Dr. Jankowsky is one of the first ADR researchers to receive a Pilot Program Award, an award for researchers whose work shows special promise.