UCI MIND’s Mathew Blurton-Jones will lead the research project, funded by $500,000 from the O.C. Community Foundation.

The UCI Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders has been awarded a $500,000 grant from the Orange County Community Foundation’s S.L. Gimbel Foundation Fund. The money will support the testing of 1,200+ FDA-approved compounds to gauge their effectiveness in preventing microglia from destroying brain synapses. Such damage “is seen frequently in patients with Alzheimer’s disease,” said Mathew Blurton-Jones, leader of UCI MIND’s induced pluripotent stem cells unit, who will serve as principal researcher on the project. “As we gain a deeper understanding of the mechanisms that drive the development of this disease, we will be able to utilize this information to develop safe and effective therapies to treat and, eventually, prevent this debilitating disease.” Microglia are immune cells that function as gardeners of the brain. They help neurons grow and support health brain development, and they also weed out unwanted neuronal connections, or synapses. The “hijacking” of this process is thought to underlie Alzheimer’s. “The goal of this study is to identify the 20 leading genes and drugs that reduce microglial synaptic ‘overpruning’ without altering their other normal functions,” Blurton-Jones said. “We are grateful to be the recipients of this OCCF grant and remain confident that through our clinical trials and studies, we could be well on our way toward finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.”