University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)

Novel Ways to Predict Successful and Abnormal Aging of the Brain: The Role of Compound Genetic Risk

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The genome is the recipe for the building blocks of life – and an ideal resource to probe for what our future holds. The variation in each of our genetic codes globally impacts our individual process of aging; each of us carries a unique code. By understanding how our individual variation can impact brain health, we can strategize, via a “personalized” approach, to combat abnormal brain aging.

My main research question is: can we examine an individual’s entire genome for a combination of genetic variations that predict abnormal brain aging, including risk for the development of diseases like Alzheimer’s and frontotemporal dementia?

To address this critical question, I will develop novel approaches for studying our genetic code using a variety of methods ranging from “decoding” our genomes through direct sequencing to applying this knowledge to brain network function via sophisticated neuroimaging techniques. The goal of this research is to identify markers that predict healthy brain aging and identify people at highest risk for age-related neurodegenerative disorders. By early identification of individuals at greatest genetic risk for abnormal brain aging, we increase our ability to intervene with therapeutic strategies prior to the clinical onset of disease, which may ultimately allow all individuals to maintain brain health throughout the aging process.