Understanding Alzheimer’s through Marine Life

By Jessica Alvarez

Understanding Alzheimer’s through Marine Life

By Jessica Alvarez
Postdoctoral associate Nicholas Kron shares his research that uses a species of sea slug to better understand Alzheimer’s.

“By using marine animals instead of, for example, the brains of mice or rats, we are changing the way we understand Alzheimer’s,” says Nicholas Kron, a postdoctoral associate at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS). Nicholas understands that by diversifying the investigation of Alzheimer’s by using marine models, there is a chance of augmenting current research in mammals not possible to approach with lab rats. Casting a wider net in this manner increases the likelihood of making key discoveries in understanding this disease.

Nicholas’ current project focuses on extending the use of the marine neural model Aplysia californica, a species of sea slug, to study Alzheimer’s disease. The nervous system of this species is made up of roughly ten thousand neurons, which is no comparison to the hundreds of billions in human brains. This fact allows for the reliable identification and study of the exact same single neurons and neuron clusters in every Aplysia, something not possible in mice or rats. Data will be collected from studying the disease mechanisms in aged Aplysia neurons, in hopes that there can be contributions to the development of effective treatments. “Although Alzheimer’s and many other neurodegenerative diseases are age-associated, these illnesses are often studied with the young brains of mutant strain mice. By studying the aging brain as I am in my project, there are better chances of more relevant data collection,” says Nicholas.

 There is a high demand to find better methods to treat Alzheimer’s, which makes Nicholas excited about his work. “The possibility that my research may contribute to the discovery of more effective treatments for this disease gives me both strong motivation and a great amount of satisfaction,” Nicholas goes on to say. With the use of this “wonderful little slug,” he hopes to understand more about such a complex disease. He believes that as he continues to bring awareness to the utility of unique animal models, that it can open new avenues for researchers.