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Embedding Fibers to Undo the Tapestry of Memory Loss in Alzheimer's Disease

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Every 65 seconds, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s disease, a devastating form of dementia that affects 6.2 million Americans.

Though it was initially identified almost 120 years ago, Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder with no cure and few treatments. It starts out with minor memory loss that, over time, advances to a mental decline so severe, individuals have difficulty even swallowing.

Xiaoting Jia, associate professor in the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, experienced the direct, cruel impact of Alzheimer’s disease as it ravaged her grandmother’s mind, destroying memories of a long-lived and loved life.

“Alzheimer’s is a devastating problem – I’ve seen firsthand how bad it could be,” Jia said. “It’s why it concerns me as an electrical engineer. I want to build tools and try to assist neuroscientists in solving brain problems.”

It’s this personal connection that makes the high priority, short-term grant from the National Institutes of Health so poignant.

Building a new fiber

A pioneer in the neural fiber field, Jia has partnered with longtime collaborator Harald Sontheimer, professor and chair of neuroscience at the University of Virginia, and fellow brain imaging expert Song Hu, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, on the development of a new neural tool: a deep brain, multipurpose fiber.

Their goal? Slowing down or reversing memory loss.

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Schedule27 May 2024