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Infection and Inflammation: New Perspectives on Alzheimer's diseaseOver 800 scientists from across the United States and overseas convened virtually for a joint Duke/UNC Alzheimer’s Disease Symposium examining how microbes and inflammation influence Alzheimer’s disease. The full-day event, held on May 27, shed light on the critical role that microbes and inflammation may play in how this disease develops and progresses.

If microbes are implicated in Alzheimer’s disease development, even in a subset of patients, this discovery would point toward an untapped opportunity to prevent and treat this devastating disease. Expert researchers, drawn from leading academic institutions, discussed subjects ranging from the possible antimicrobial role of amyloid (a protein abundant in Alzheimer’s disease brain plaques) to the emerging role of gut organisms, the so-called “gut microbiome,” in the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

“The large audience and robust discussions throughout the day illustrate that there are under-investigated questions which deserve much further research,” said Heather Whitson, MD, MHS professor of Medicine and Ophthalmology and Director of the Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development at the Duke University School of Medicine, who chaired the conference along with Gwenn Garden, MD, PhD, professor of neurology and chair of the Department of Neurology at UNC-Chapel Hill.

The cross-university collaboration was an initiative from Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Collaborative (Duke/UNC ADRC), which brings together established and emerging researchers in Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias across two major research institutions.

The Duke/UNC ADRC works to catalyze and support research, innovations in clinical care and academic workforce development (with North Carolina Central University, East Carolina University, and UNC Pembroke as partner institutions) in this field. The Duke/UNC ADRC’s ultimate purpose is to reduce the burden of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias regionally and nationally. The outstanding scientific environment at both institutions enables novel research to identify effective methods of prevention and/or early intervention, and to reduce racial and urban/rural disparities associated with dementia.

Read more about the Duke/UNC ADRC and find links to view recordings of the day’s lectures here.

The purpose of these $50,000 pilot awards is to stimulate and support collaborative, innovative research on the potential role of microbes or pathogens in the development of Alzheimer’s disease (AD).