Departments and Centres
Pier Luigi Canonico
Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is an irreversible, progressive neurodegenerative disease. It is the most common cause of dementia in older people in developed countries: it is currently estimated to strike around 5% of people over the age of 65 and around 20% of those over 85.
The only pharmacological treatments currently available for sufferers of AD work to temporarily relieve some symptoms without impacting on its progression. They are the result of pathogenetic hypotheses (for example, the so-called cholinergic hypothesis) formulated some decades ago.
Although the disease has been the subject of some more recent studies proposing new molecular targets, all clinical trials that aimed at modifying or interfering with such targets have dramatically failed. These disappointing results suggest that we still do not have sufficient knowledge about AD physiology and/or that too much emphasis was placed on the pathogenetic hypothesis stating that the accumulation of amyloid-beta plays a key role in the neurodegeneration and cognitive deterioration linked to the disease.
The COCOON project, using different but complementary experimental, preclinical and clinical approaches, is innovative in its focus on other proteins and signs, particularly in the neuro-repair processes. One important aspect addressed by the UPO team lies in the potential alterations linked to the disease in communication between neurones and astrocytes, with particular focus on proteins secreted by glial cells and their role in the (dys)regulation of adult neurogenesis. In fact, recent findings show that this particular form of neural plasticity is profoundly altered in relatively early stages of AD.
The COCOON project sets out not only to identify new pathogenetic mechanisms but also to check whether these may represent new pharmacological targets and/or markers for the diagnosis of AD.
Other research partners alongside UPO:
Università degli Studi of Milan (Prof. Monica DiLuca)
Università degli Studi of Bologna (Prof. Patrizia Hrelia)
Università degli Studi of Messina (Prof. Emanuela Esposito)
Università degli Studi of Brescia (Dr. Andrea Pilotto)