Congratulations to Ramin Pashaie, associate professor of electrical engineering, who was recently awarded a $300,000 National Science Foundation grant is to study neuro-vascular interactions during Alzheimer’s disease. The project title is “EAGER: Optical and System Engineering Interrogation of Vascular Amyloid in Alzheimer’s Disease.”
Pashaie and his research team hope to come to understand how blood pathways in the brain are determined, and how diseases like Alzheimer’s disrupt such mechanisms, enabling an assessment of how far the disease has progressed. Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, and the only one among the top 10 that cannot be prevented, cured or slowed, nor diagnosed with 100 percent accuracy. The idea behind Pashaie’s work is that better understanding of the problem can lead to a better solution to the disease.
Pashaie is studying interactions between the two main networks in the brain, the network of neurons and the vascular network. The dynamics between these two networks are tightly coupled, so that by monitoring the activity in one network one can estimate the state of activity in the other. For example, when certain neurons in the brain are activated by a sensory input to process the information, these cells need more oxygen and energy. As a result, the flow of blood should be regulated to address the need of those cells for such metabolic products. However, in several diseases the vital blood flow regulatory mechanisms are disrupted. In diseases like Alzheimer’s, lack of oxygen and energy when the cells are highly active causes ischemic damage to neurons and contributes to the initiation or progression of the disease.
The research that Pashaie and his team are conducting is focused on understanding the cell signaling aspects of blood flow regulatory mechanisms in the brains of healthy lab animals as well as animals that are in various stages of Alzheimer’s. More specifically, by harnessing new advances in optical and laser technologies and developing new non-invasive brain imaging platforms, this engineering team will collect new datasets and open a roadmap to elucidate this complex process in sufficient detail.
This research project is multi-disciplinary in nature. The success of this work requires expertise in optics, electronics, mathematics, and computer science as well as neuroscience and genetics. Strong and ongoing inter-department collaboration makes UWM and the College of Engineering & Applied Science the ideal host for this project.
NSF is currently funding another research project in Pashaie’s lab, providing $506,000 for the development of new optical brain interface platforms.
More detailed information about Pashaie’s research will appear soon in the Journal of Neural Engineering under the title “Optogenetic interrogation of neurovascular coupling in the cerebral cortex of transgenic mice.”