Duke-led Research Teams Receive Norins Awards to Explore the Germ Hypothesis of Alzheimer’s Disease

Two Duke-led research projects exploring the role that infections or microbes might play in Alzheimer’s disease have received $50,000 Duke/UNC Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center Norins Pilot Awards. The Norins Pilot Awards, coordinated by the Duke University Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development, are intended to stimulate and support collaborative, innovative research on the potential role of microbes or pathogens in the development of Alzheimer’s Disease.  

Two projects were selected for funding from a highly competitive field of proposals:  

“Investigating the Utility of Corneal Staining for Early Detection of Alzheimer’s Disease,” led by principal investigator Victor L. Perez Quinones, MD, the Stephen and Frances Foster Distinguished Professor of Ocular Immunology and Inflammation in the Duke Department of Ophthalmology, along with collaborators Gerald B. Pier, PhD, professor of medicine, and Colette Cywes-Bentley, PhD, assistant professor of medicine, both at Harvard Medical School. The researchers will seek to determine whether microbial antigens on ocular surface and/or corneal epithelium can be used to identify individuals in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.  
“Testing the Germ Theory of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) by Focusing on P. gingivalis and Apolipoprotein-E,” led by principal investigator Michael P. Vitek, PhD, adjunct associate professor in the Duke Department of Neurology, and collaborators Alexandra Badea, PhD, associate professor of radiology and neurology at Duke, and Ian Shih, PhD, associate professor of neurology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.

They will work to establish preliminary data exploring the interaction of P. gingivalis infection (the keystone bacteria associated with gingivitis and periodontal disease) and the APOE genotype (recognized as one of the largest risk factors for developing Alzheimer’s Disease) in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.  

These awards are made possible by generous support from Dr. Leslie Norins, MD’62, and Ms. Rainey Norins.  

For more information on key gaps and high priority topics related to the potential role of infection, microbes, and inflammation in Alzheimer’s disease, please see the recording of the Duke/UNC ADRC 2021 symposium at Duke/UNC ADRC 2021 Symposium

Article originally appeared in Duke School of Medicine news