Andrew Shin

Texas Tech released a statement announcing that Andrew Shin and Vijay Hedge, assistant professors in the Department of Nutritional Sciences’ Neurobiology of Nutrition Laboratory, received a grant of $415,355 from the National Institute on Aging, a department in the National Institute of Health, for two-years to continue searching for a 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, according to the release. “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.”

Shin and Hedge's research focuses mainly on the BCAA levels of Alzheimer's patients, according to the release, as preliminary data has suggested that these levels are 25-50 percent higher in those with the disease. The BCAA levels and metabolites in patients' blood could not only possibly indicate a predictive marker for the disease, but also could be potential targets to be treated.

“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, according to the release.

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