The Rao laboratory in the CDR is interested in understanding the mechanisms involved in degeneration of neurons in the brain by proteases elevated in Alzheimer’s disease. We have developed mouse models to inhibit specific proteases and using these models we are studying protease inactivation as a potential AD therapy. We are also studying ALS with the same inhibitor model to develop a therapy. These studies focus on how the cytoskeleton of the neuron is disrupted by proteases and the molecular mechanisms that lead to destabilization and death of neurons.
Dr. Mala Rao’s work in the CDR resulted in the development of a new mouse model to study AD (Rao et al., J. Neuroscience, 2008) that has demonstrated proof of concept for the use of selective inhibitors of calpains, a class of proteases, as therapies in several neurodegenerative diseases, including AD and ALS.