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Dr. Rita Sattler Awarded Grant for Frontotemporal Dementia Study

Dr. Rita Sattler, an associate professor of neurobiology at Barrow Neurological Institute, and Dr. Kendall Van Keuren-Jensen of the Translational Genomics Research Institute have received a $2.3 million grant from the Department of Defense to study the development and progression of frontotemporal dementia (FTD).

FTD involves the nerve cells in the frontal and temporal regions of the brain, affecting behavior, language, and personality. It is one of the major causes of dementia in adults under age 65, but the underlying cellular and molecular mechanisms of the disease are still poorly understood.

Dr. Sattler and Dr. Van Keuren-Jensen will focus their research on one of the most prevalent subsets of people with FTD: those carrying the mutation in the C9orf72 gene.

The researchers will use human postmortem tissue to determine the genetic makeup of frontal cortex cells in people with C9 FTD and compare them to the nerve cells of those without the disease. This could help provide a better understanding of how mutations in the C9orf72 gene lead to FTD.

They will also use induced pluripotent stem cells—blood or skin cells from adults that have been reprogrammed into nerve cells in the laboratory—to better understand the characteristics of the diseased neurons and how those traits might contribute to the progression of FTD.

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