Jay Rasmussen, PhD Student

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Jay Rasmussen1

Jay Rasmussen, PhD Student

Hometown: Orion, Alberta, Canada

Affiliation: Hertie Institute for Clinical Brain Research (HIH) / German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE)

What are you working on?

I am investigating the molecular mechanisms involved in the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). In particular, I am focusing on a specific disease-associated protein named amyloid-beta (Abeta) that is deposited in the brain tissue. This protein has been shown to fold into different physical shapes depending on the surrounding environment. I am interested in determining how these different shapes may influence the progression of dementia. The impact of this variation in Abeta could directly influence how we approach therapeutic intervention.

Why is it interesting?

A prevailing hypothesis of AD, named the Amyloid Cascade Hypothesis, postulates that the Abeta protein is responsible for the initiation of the disease. Our research would align with this hypothesis in explaining variation within the disease as also being caused by the Abeta protein. In addition, a number of current clinical trials for AD target Abeta and variations in protein shape would be extremely valuable to know when designing new treatments. This research project is also highly collaborative, involving many different institutions across the world with different expertise to learn more from this valuable patient tissue.

How are you going to find out?

We are using human AD autopsy tissue from brain banks around the world to characterize the Abeta protein present within them. The selection of these different cases was strategic to include different sub-groups of patients with AD caused by different genetic factors. A number of biochemical techniques will be employed to probe the shape of the Abeta protein from different angles. These will include special fluorescent molecules combined with high-powered microscopes and, in parallel, flow cytometry, a technique that combines single-molecule fluorescent detection with micro-fluidics.

What do you like most about being a scientist?

There are a number of aspects to research that I find particularly exciting and rewarding. First, I enjoy being in an environment where you are free to be creative and explore research questions in your own way. I also find it rewarding to be surrounded by such motivated and intelligent colleagues. Tübingen is a particularly special place in this regard, due to the extremely strong neuroscience community. Finally, I revere the fact that, at its core, science is unbiased and is about the advancement of knowledge.

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