Taub Institute: Genomics Core


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Irving Medical Center
Neurological Institute

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Taub Institute news and events


2023 - 2021 | 2020 - 2011

  • What to Know about Frontotemporal Dementia
    February 23, 2023

    Taub faculty member Dr. James Noble spoke with NewYork-Presbyterian Health Matters about "What to Know About Frontotemporal Dementia," the most common form of dementia for people under the age of 60. As Dr. Noble explains, "Among the causes of dementia, FTD is unique in that about one-third of all people with FTD will have a family history, which is suggestive of a genetic link. Several genes have been implicated in FTD, and genetic testing is more often discussed and considered in FTD than in other dementias." [read more]

  • CRAIN'S NEW YORK BUSINESS (Requires a subscription) February 22, 2023
    Columbia Gets Federal Grant to Study Link Between Diabetes and Alzheimer's

    The study includes four projects designed to build on the landmark Diabetes Prevention Program Outcomes Study, said Dr. Jose Luchsinger, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at Columbia and co-principal investigator on the study. The DPPOS has been ongoing since 2002. [read more]
    Editor's Note: This story was also covered by Politico.
  • The Guardian February 19, 2023
    Could Alzheimer’s Be Caused By an Infection?

    As Davangere Devanand, a neurologist at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, combed through the reams of scientific data on Alzheimer‚Äôs, he stumbled across a surprising idea ‚Äď could an infection be involved in driving the disease? [read more]
  • Their Alzheimer's Disease Didn't Worsen. Why?
    ‚ÄĒ Case reports find one healthy habit in common
    MedPage Today
    By: Judy George
    February 3, 2023

    Of all the possible contributors, intense physical activity was the likely disease-modifying factor, Davangere Devanand, MD, of Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City, and co-authors wrote in Alzheimer's & Dementia. [read more]

  • Chris Haynes and Janine SchiaviPictured: Chris Haynes and Janine Schiavi
    Laugh to Remember

    The sixth annual Laugh to Remember event, led by Chris Haynes and Janine Schiavi of Broadacre Financial, was held June 8 at Gotham Comedy Club to benefit Columbia’s Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain. The event raised $250,000 to support medical research for neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS, and frontotemporal dementia.

  • Navigating Life with Dementia
    August 31, 2022

    Navigating Life with Dementia, written by Dr. James M. Noble, an associate professor of neurology and dementia specialist in the Division of Aging and Dementia, is the latest title in the American Academy of Neurology's Brain & Life¬ģ Book series, published with Oxford University Press. In an engaging interview now featured on the Brain & Life website, Dr. Noble explains that he wrote the book ‚Äúto create something that patients and their families could read at their own pace for additional information and resources, other patients' experiences, and some sense of the road ahead."

  • Columbia Joins International Genetic Study of Alzheimer‚Äôs Disease in People of Hispanic and African Ancestry

    A team of investigators from the Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center (NYP/CUIMC) have joined a major international initiative, directed by the John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics (HIHG) at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, to build a resource that will expand Alzheimer’s disease genetic studies in the underrepresented African ancestry populations and Hispanic/Latinx groups. This five-year, multisite initiative also includes investigator teams from Case Western Reserve University, Wake Forest University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Ibadan as the lead institution for the African Dementia Consortium (AfDC). [read more]

  • Missing Link Between Alzheimer‚Äôs and Vascular Disease Found?
    CUIMC Newsroom
    May 24, 2022

    For more than 20 years, scientists have known that people with hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, or obesity have a higher likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

    The conditions can all affect the brain, damaging blood vessels and leading to strokes. But the connection between vascular disease in the brain and Alzheimer’s has remained unexplained despite the intense efforts of researchers.

    Now, a study led by researchers at Columbia University's Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons has uncovered a possible mechanism. The study found a gene called FMNL2 links cerebrovascular disease and Alzheimer’s and suggests changes in FMNL2 activity caused by cerebrovascular disease prevent the efficient clearance of toxic proteins from the brain, eventually leading to Alzheimer’s disease.

    The finding could lead to a way to prevent Alzheimer’s in people with hypertension, diabetes, obesity, or heart disease.

    ‚ÄúNot only do we have a gene, but we have a potential mechanism,‚ÄĚ says senior author Richard Mayeux, MD, chair of neurology at Columbia and NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center. ‚ÄúPeople have been trying to figure this out for a couple of decades, and I think we have our foot in the door now. We feel there must be other genes involved and that we've just scratched the surface.‚ÄĚ

    Mayeux and his colleagues found FMNL2 in a genome-wide hunt designed to uncover genes associated with both vascular risk factors and Alzheimer’s disease. The search involved five groups of patients representing different ethnic groups. [read more]

  • Alzheimer‚Äôs Researchers Probe New Treatment Paths
    The Wall Street Journal
    By Dominique Mosbergen
    May 22, 2022

    The amyloid hypothesis, posited in the 1990s, proposes that amyloid-plaque formation leads to a cascade of negative effects including the accumulation of tau, inflammation, cell death and the loss of synapses, the junctions through which nerve cells known as neurons communicate with each other. ‚ÄúIt was so compelling that it triggered the pharmaceutical industry to act,‚ÄĚ said¬†Scott Small, director of the Alzheimer‚Äôs Disease Research Center at¬†Columbia University.¬†[read more]
    Editor's Note: Accessing this article requires a WSJ subscription.

  • Brain Region‚Äôs Vulnerability to Alzheimer‚Äôs Tied to Recycling Problems Inside Cells
    December 28, 2021

    NEW YORK – When Alzheimer's disease first attacks the brain, it doesn't strike randomly. The damage tends to begin in the entorhinal cortex, a tiny hub especially connected to other parts of the brain. Why this area would be particularly vulnerable is a puzzle that scientists have been trying to work out for decades.

    Researchers at Columbia University may finally have a solution, one that backs a new approach to developing treatments for this devastating neurodegenerative disease. Seven years of step-by-step sleuthing has implicated retromers: microscopic mail carriers that help package, ship and recycle molecules inside of cells. The scientists report their findings December 28 in Cell Reports.

    “Efforts to treat Alzheimer’s disease have focused on what Dr. Alois Alzheimer observed more than a hundred years ago, but we have come a long way since then. Retromers offer a new direction and a new hope,” said Scott Small, MD, director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Columbia University, the Boris and Rose Katz Professor of Neurology at Columbia University’s Taub Institute and Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, and an affiliate member of Columbia’s Zuckerman Institute

    Starting with the Fundamentals

    Sabrina Simoes, PhD, wasn't thinking about Alzheimer's when she first began exploring retromers as an associate research scientist in Dr. Small's lab. She had been reading about how, in organisms ranging from yeast to humans, every cell contains the retromer VSP26a. But only neurons, a type of brain cell, possess a different paralog of this retromer, VSP26b. As a scientist fascinated by the fundamental biology of cells, she found her curiosity piqued.

    “I thought, 'This can't be a fluke, there must be some reason neurons need this second version of this retromer,'” said Dr. Simoes, who is now an Assistant Professor of Neurology at Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and Taub Institute. “So I took a closer look.”

    Dr. Simoes grew and stimulated neurons in a dish. Under a microscope, she saw that the 26b paralog tended to hang out in cellular compartments used to recycle molecules inside brain cells: that is, to move molecules to and from the surfaces of neurons to regulate the cells’ electrical activity. The researcher wondered what role 26b plays in different brain regions. So she started working with mice from the University of Science & Technology in Korea that had been genetically modified to disable the Vps26b gene. And she teamed up with Jia Guo, PhD, an expert in the brain scanning technology functional magnetic resonance imaging at Columbia’s Zuckerman Institute.

    A Surprising Scan

    Dr. Guo used fMRI machines specially made for small animals to noninvasively scan the brains of the modified lab mice. He noticed something peculiar: a lack of activity in one small, sharply defined area in their brains, as compared to the brains of normal mice.

    “I have never seen an fMRI imaging result in humans or other animals that was so striking, such a focused spot,” said Dr. Guo, an assistant professor in Columbia's Department of Psychiatry. “Normally, the differences in brain activity we see are fuzzy and diffuse.”

    That spot coincided with a sliver of the entorhinal cortex brain region. When the researchers then directly measured the electrical activity of neurons in that area using electrodes, they found deficits, confirming the fMRI results. The mice also had trouble completing memory-related tasks known to involve the entorhinal cortex. Reintroducing working copies of Vps26b into the mice completely fixed these problems.

    With all signs pointing to a link between the retromer and the entorhinal cortex, Simoes' fundamental cell biology work had been connected with Alzheimer's disease. That’s because neurological diseases have different hallmarks. Parkinson's starts in the substantia nigra, a brain region important for controlling the body. Huntington's first affects the striatum, related to rewards. And Alzheimer's, as has been known for decades, tends to set its sights on the entorhinal cortex.

    “The evidence built up that this retromer variant, linked to cellular recycling, was crucial for proper brain function in the entorhinal cortex,” said Dr. Simoes. “This brain region's role in Alzheimer's led us to investigate whether the paralog could be related to the disease.”

    Introducing SORL1

    While the researchers were hard on the retromer's trail, another clue emerged. In 2007, a team that included Columbia’s Richard Mayeux, MD, MSc, chair of neurology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, had found a new gene connected to Alzheimer's. Mutations in this SORL1 gene were associated with late-onset Alzheimer's, which afflicts people over the age of 65, and SORL1 has emerged as one of the most damaging genes in the disease. Dr. Small and colleagues first found that the SORL1 protein is part of the same molecular shipping system associated with retromers.

    Hoping to further connect this gene to their retromer variant, Dr. Small and his team checked their mice and found a deficiency of SORL1 in the entorhinal cortex. The scientists also examined brains donated by people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and found a striking pattern: Tissues in the entorhinal cortex were depleted in both SORL1 and Vps26b.

    Putting all these pieces together suggests that Alzheimer’s might begin with problems with a neuron’s ability to move molecules around. Scientists know the entorhinal cortex, a hub in the brain, forms an unusually large number of connections with other parts of the brain. These connections and the activity they generate could stimulate a lot of molecular recycling, making the entorhinal cortex especially susceptible to disruptions in these processes. For Dr. Small, these results hold promise for developing new treatments.

    “Anchored in genetics and revealing that retromer dysfunction and SORL1 deficiency can explain the regional vulnerability we see in Alzheimer’s disease, this work validates the idea that retromer-enhancing drugs are worth pursuing for Alzheimer's disease therapeutics,” he said.


    “Alzheimer’s vulnerable brain region relies on a distinct retromer core dedicated to endosomal recycling” appeared on December 28 in Cell Reports. Authors are Sabrina Simoes, Jia Guo, Luna Buitrago, Yasir H. Qureshi, Xinyang Feng, Milankumar Kothiya, Etty Cortes, Vivek Patel, Suvarnambiga Kannan, Young-Hyun Kim, Kyu-Tae Chang, Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, S. Abid Hussaini, Herman Moreno, Gilbert Di Paolo, Olav M. Andersen, and Scott A. Small.

    The authors declare competing financial interests: Scott Small is a co-founder of Retromer Therapeutics, has equity in the company, and is a paid consultant to the company. In addition, Scott Small has equity in Imij Technologies, an MRI-based company. Gilbert Di Paolo is a full-time employee of Denali Therapeutics, Inc. Olav M. Andersen has commercial interests in Retromer Therapeutics. Lastly, Scott Small, Sabrina Simoes, and Yasir H. Qureshi are listed as co-inventors on Columbia University-owned patents that relate to retromer biomarkers and retromer drug discovery targets.

    This study was partly supported by NIH R01 grants AG034618, AG035015, and P30AG066462 to S.A.S., NS056049 to G.D.P. and AG051556 to H.M. Human MRI data collection and sharing for this project were funded by the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) (NIH Grant U01 AG024904) and Department of Defense 409 ADNI (award number W81XWH-12-2-0012). Data collection and sharing for this project was partially funded by the ADNI (National Institutes of Health Grant U01 411 AG024904) and DOD ADNI (Department of Defense award number W81XWH-12-2-412 0012). ADNI is funded by the National Institute on Aging, the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, and through generous contributions from the following: AbbVie, Alzheimer's Association; Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation; Araclon Biotech; BioClinica, Inc.; Biogen; Bristol-Myers Squibb Company; CereSpir, Inc.; Cogstate; Eisai Inc.; Elan Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Eli Lilly and Company; EuroImmun; F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd and its affiliated company Genentech, Inc.; Fujirebio; GE Healthcare; IXICO Ltd.;Janssen Alzheimer Immunotherapy Research & Development, LLC.; Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development LLC.; Lumosity; Lundbeck; Merck & Co., Inc.; Meso Scale Diagnostics, LLC.; NeuroRx Research; Neurotrack Technologies; Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation; Pfizer Inc.; Piramal Imaging; Servier; Takeda Pharmaceutical Company; and Transition Therapeutics. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research is providing funds to support ADNI clinical sites in Canada. Private sector contributions are facilitated by the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (www.fnih.org). The grantee organization is the Northern California Institute for Research and Education, and the study is coordinated by the Alzheimer's Therapeutic Research Institute at the University of Southern California. ADNI data are disseminated by the Laboratory for Neuro Imaging at the University of Southern California.

    Source: Columbia Zuckerman Institute

  • Prevention
    By Marisa Cohen
    October 26, 2021
    How Is Alzheimer's Disease Treated?

    Whichever medication is prescribed, doctors will usually start the patient on a low dose and increase the amount based on how well they tolerate the drug (side effects may include nausea, fatigue, loss of appetite, constipation, and headache). ‚ÄúSometimes there will be a mild improvement right away, in terms of being able to recall memories that the patient wasn‚Äôt remembering before,‚ÄĚ says Elise Caccappolo, Ph.D., an associate professor of neuropsychology at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a little bump that usually lasts around six months, and then they usually plateau,‚ÄĚ she explains. [read more]

  • The Wall Street Journal
    By Emily Bobrow
    July 8, 2021
    ‚ÄėForgetting‚Äô Review: The Balm of Oblivion

    There is a robust market for books that praise our seemingly feeble habits of mind. Authors have lately offered empirical support for the benefits of everything from swearing to grumpiness. Now Scott Small, the director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Columbia University, joins this merciful bunch with his own upbeat take on one of our more profound mental shortcomings: forgetfulness [read more (PDF)]

  • STAT
    June 4, 2021
    A landmark Alzheimer’s drug approval would likely deepen racial inequities in dementia care

    Other researchers are not convinced that these biomarkers vary by race, primarily because so little Alzheimer‚Äôs research has been conducted on Black and Latinx people. ‚ÄúWe don‚Äôt know these differences exist and the reason we don‚Äôt know is we have an inequitable system,‚ÄĚ said Jennifer Manly, a professor in the Columbia University neurology department who studies predictors of Alzheimer‚Äôs disease in Black and Hispanic populations. ‚ÄúNot only has research been occurring in clinics with mostly white people, the research is occurring on mostly well-educated and well-resourced white people.‚ÄĚ [read more]

    March 30, 2021
    Dementia and COVID: What Families and Physicians Should Know

    Early in the pandemic, neurologists expressed concern that COVID-19 patients with dementia may be at higher risk for complications and mortality.

    But those fears have not been realized, according to a new study of patients who were hospitalized with COVID-19 during the first wave of the pandemic in New York City. The study, led by James Noble, MD, MS, associate professor of neurology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and the Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain, and Amro Harb, a Vagelos medical student, was published this month in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease [read more]

    February 18, 2021
    A New Way to Prevent Nerve Damage Caused by Chemotherapy?

    About 60% of cancer patients treated with chemotherapy develop painful nerve damage but no drugs exist to prevent this complication.

    Now a new study‚ÄĒthat identifies how one agent causes nerve degeneration‚ÄĒmay lead to the development of the first drugs to prevent peripheral neuropathy and identify people who may be at greatest risk of developing the condition. [read more]

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