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Studying the Role of Protein Aggregates in Alzheimer’s Disease

Professor Ashuwin Vaidya

Professor Ashuwin Vaidya is conducting small-scale mathematical modeling in collaborative research.

While protein molecules frequently clump together to form various aggregates, one such aggregation produces amyloid clumps, which scientists believe play a role in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Vaidya, a Mathematical Sciences professor, has received a National Science Foundation grant of $111,404 to support his work on “Dynamics of surfactant-amyloid-beta protein interactions during self-assembly,” a three-year collaborative research project.

“We’re trying first to understand the fundamental mechanics of how aggregates and aggregate pathways happen.”

Ashuwin Vaidya

Vaidya’s team seeks to understand how biological surfactant molecules modulate amyloid protein aggregation to form specific aggregate species, including the protein amyloid-beta, which is closely associated with Alzheimer’s disease. “Beta-amyloid plaques — a consequence of aggregation — are seen in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients,” Vaidya notes.

“I’m doing the small-scale mathematical modeling, while my colleague at Virginia Commonwealth University is doing larger scale computational modeling and my biochemist collaborator at the University of Southern Mississippi will conduct experiments on the proteins behind all this,” says Vaidya. “Our work feeds into each other.”

This interdisciplinary, synergistic approach unites experimental biophysics, simulation and mathematical analyses to meet two project aims. “We’re trying first to understand the fundamental mechanics of how aggregates and aggregate pathways happen,” says Vaidya, whose funding includes support for a graduate student assistant. “Then we want to see how a system can shift from one pathway to another.”

Ultimately, this fuller understanding of aggregation pathways within a more complex network of reactions involving amyloids could lead to the development of effective intervention strategies — not only for patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease but also for those with other neurological disorders.