Annual Update

 

As 2021 draws to a close, it is important to reflect on another remarkable year at UCI MIND. The pandemic continues to shape our lives in numerous ways and the omicron variant appears poised to further delay our return to normalcy. Nonetheless, this year we were largely able to return to our full research activities and you were nothing short of spectacularly productive. I send my sincere gratitude and congratulations to you all.

Below, I offer just a few highlights of the last 12 months.

 

From a community outreach standpoint, COVID has forced adjustment of the way we do business. But one product of these adjustments is a new resource for patients, caregivers, and advocates we have called UCI MINDcast. Many of you have already contributed to this library of content and we hope more of you will in 2022.

 

From a philanthropic standpoint, we achieved our goal of raising at least $2M for the fifth consecutive year. We have funded numerous large pilot awards across the campus in recent years and will continue to find ways to invigorate innovative science moving forward. We had an important staff transition; Cherry Justice (above, left) joined UCI MIND as Executive Director of Development and will be interacting with you all as we seek new opportunities to accelerate science at UCI MIND through philanthropy.

 

Philanthropy supported the launch of a novel community education program, the Beall Scholars, that drew high school juniors from underserved Orange County schools and gave them tools and inspiration to pursue STEM careers, including those in aging clinical care and research. This program was led by our outstanding REMIND Co-Chairs.

 

We hosted a second consecutive virtual Southern California AD Research Conference, which included outstanding presentations by visiting faculty and our own Tom Lane. More than 1200 people registered and more than 2600 people have viewed the presentations on Facebook or YouTube.

 

The Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease T32 (Carl Cotman and Andrea Tenner, MPIs) remains in good standing and we (Liz Head and I) were able to add a new T32, Training in Translational ADRD Neuroscience (TITAN). The first wave of trainees have been placed on this new source of trainee funding and mentorship.

 

Liz Head also led the mentorship of our first round of Research Education Component mentees in the ADRC. These post-docs and junior faculty will have up to 2 years of training and mentorship in this program, which began with the recent ADRC renewal and is off to an excellent start.

 

Research funding continues to be at all-time high levels and our investigators have achieved new grants too numerous to list here. We also have assisted in the submission of a very large number of applications this year, creating hopeful potential of continuation of the current levels. Special thanks goes to Andrea Wasserman (above, left) for her truly tireless efforts to work with faculty and trainees on grants both large and small. Her knowledge and effort are key to our many successes.

 

Our investigators, including trainees, have been highly productive in publishing high impact papers. I offer just a small sample here:

  • Baglietto-Vargas et al., Generation of a humanized Aβ expressing mouse demonstrating aspects of Alzheimer’s disease-like pathology, Nature Comm 2021
  • Chappel-Farley et al., Symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea are associated with less frequent exercise and worse subjective cognitive function across adulthood, Sleep 2021
  • Claes et al., Plaque-associated human microglia accumulate lipid droplets in a chimeric model of Alzheimer’s disease, Mol Neurodegen 2021
  • Dominguez et al., Regional Cortical Thickness Predicts Top Cognitive Performance in the Elderly, Front Aging Neurosci
  • Forner et al., Systematic phenotyping and characterization of the 5xFAD mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease, Sci Data 2021
  • Henningfield et al., Microglia-specific ApoE knock-out does not alter Alzheimer’s disease plaque pathogenesis or gene expression, Glia 2021
  • Ho et al., Blood-Brain Barrier Crossing Renin-Angiotensin Drugs and Cognition in the Elderly: A Meta-Analysis, Hypertension 2021.
  • Ionescu-Tucker and Cotman, Emerging roles of oxidative stress in brain aging and Alzheimer’s disease, Neurobiol Aging 2021
  • Kawas et al, Diversity and Disparities in Dementia Diagnosis and Care: A Challenge for All of Us, JAMA Neurology 2021
  • Keiser et al., Systemic HDAC3 inhibition ameliorates impairments in synaptic plasticity caused by simulated galactic cosmic radiation exposure in male mice, Neurobiol Learn Mem 2021
  • Morabito et al., Single-nucleus chromatin accessibility and transcriptomic characterization of Alzheimer’s disease, Nat Genet 2021
  • Morozko et al., PIAS1 modulates striatal transcription, DNA damage repair, and SUMOylation with relevance to Huntington’s disease, Proc Natl Acad Sci 2021
  • Nuño and Gillen, Robust estimation in the nested case-control design under a misspecified covariate functional form, Stat Med 2021
  • Radharkrishnan et al., Tacrolimus Protects against Age-Associated Microstructural Changes in the Beagle Brain, J Neurosci 2021
  • Woodworth et al, Utility of MRI in the identification of hippocampal sclerosis of aging, Alzheimer’s & Dementia, 2021

 

The next 12 months will bring important milestones, as the renewal of two of the most important grants in our portfolio, the MODEL-AD U54 and ADRC P30, loom. Frank LaFerla, Andrea Tenner, and their collaborative team are already hard at work on the MODEL-AD renewal, which will be due next calendar year. The ADRC renewal is not until 2024, but our progress now will be key to our success.

We have plans to hold at least one new pilot research funding opportunity—to capitalize on new biomarker assay resources we (Liz Head, Ed Monuki and I) have brought to UCI. We are thrilled that we have also received adequate support to again hold a call for applications in the UCI MIND/WAM Women’s Initiative. We hope that you will capitalize on these new opportunities.

The last two years have been difficult for everyone. But this time has also provided reminders of the importance of our work and the strength of our resolve and collaboration. It is an honor to work with you all and to serve in my capacity as UCI MIND Director. I wish you, your entire teams, and all of your families warmest wishes this holiday season and look forward to another excellent year together in 2022.

Sincerely,

Joshua Grill, PhD

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