Leptin Protein and its Involvement in Alzheimer Disease in Down Syndrome
MentorElizabeth Head, PhD The University of California, Irvine
My goal is to provide evidence that obesity and, therefore, high leptin levels are potential risk factors for the development of Alzheimer disease in people with Down syndrome.
My aim is to understand how leptin levels vary between individuals and to investigate the relationship between leptin levels, cognition, and Alzheimer disease pathology in Down syndrome. For this, I will assess: 1. Changes in leptin levels in plasma and cerebrospinal fluid in people with and without Down syndrome and determine their relationship with BMI and cognition 2. The distribution of leptin and its receptors in the brain of people with and without Down syndrome 3. The correlation between leptin and its receptors with Alzheimer disease neuropathology (i.e., ß-amyloid and tau deposits)
People with Down syndrome are at higher risk for developing dementia, with around 50% of them developing Alzheimer disease by the age of 60; moreover, they are three times more likely to become overweight/obese. For these reasons, individuals with Down syndrome are an ideal population for the study of leptin, its alterations, and its relationship with Alzheimer disease onset. Studies in the general population suggest that obesity and leptin may play a role in the development of Alzheimer disease; however, leptin changes are still poorly understood in Down Syndrome. This study will help to determine if leptin has the potential to be an early biomarker of Alzheimer disease, which can be routinely assessed during medical examinations in individuals at risk. Since leptin levels are directly correlated to the amount of fat tissue in the body, the implementation of life-style changes (i.e., diet and exercise) may delay the onset of Alzheimer disease in both the general and Down syndrome populations.