Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

David S. Adams, Advisor

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Elizabeth F. Ryder, Committee Member

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Eric W. Overström, Committee Member




"Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most widespread neurodegenerative disorder, affecting approximately 20 million people worldwide. AD pathology is primarily characterized by the formation of extracellular amyloid plaques resulting from the aggregation of insoluble amyloid-beta 1-42 (A-beta), and neurofibrillary tangles (NFT’s) resulting from intracellular aggregation of hyperphosphorylated tau protein. The current FDA-approved AD treatments do not stop or reverse neurodegeneration, but only treat the symptoms by increasing acetylcholine neurotransmitter. Our laboratory is attempting to provide an additional therapeutic approach by using neurotrophic factors to block apoptosis or to restore neurons. We previously demonstrated that, in an in vitro model for AD, hEPN-1 neurotrophic factor mimetics can block synthetic A-beta-induced neuronal cell death when added to cultures, presumably by blocking caspase activation. In this thesis, we extended these findings to study the effect of A-beta and hEPN-1 on tau hyperphosphorylation (as measured by immunoblots with phospho-specific antibodies) and nuclear DNA fragmentation (as measured by TUNEL staining), both in vitro and in vivo in AD transgenic mice. We found that A-beta induces the hyperphosphorylation of tau in both mouse N2a and human SHSY neuronal cells, and that hEPN-1 may lower this phosphorylation in N2a cells. Furthermore, we discovered that hEPN-1 can reduce nuclear DNA fragmentation when added both simultaneously to A-beta and 3 and 6 hours post A-beta addition. Finally, in vivo hEPN-1 may lower both tau hyperphosphorylation and caspase-7 related protein (C7RP) in AD transgenic (Tg) mice. The overall results validate our in vitro AD model, show the efficacy of hEPN-1 at blocking A-beta-induced DNA fragmentation even when added post-insult, and show that hEPN-1 may work in an AD mouse model. However, more studies must be conducted to confirm these findings. "


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Biology & Biotechnology

Project Type


Date Accepted





tau phosphorylation, amyloid beta, apoptosis