At UAlbany's RNA Institute, Professor Igor Lednev and two  students from Puerto Rico are working to unlock the secrets of a protein with  no supportive role in human health. Why? Because it just might be the key to  understanding Alzheimer's disease and its devastating impact on the brain.

Igor Lednev, professor of Chemistry

The battle facing families coping with Alzheimer’s disease is daunting. As the progressive illness destroys the memories of victims, those left behind struggle with caring for loved ones who slip further away with each passing day. With more than three million new cases each year in the U.S. alone, the disease still has no cure.

Lednev and doctoral students Tatiana Quiñones-Ruiz and Manuel F. Rosario-Alomar are working to decode amyloid fibrils — extracellular protein deposits found in organs and tissues that, unlike other fibrous proteins, have no supportive role in human health.

“Amyloid fibrils are instead found in patients suffering from Alzheimer’s or Type 2 diabetes — diseases associated with high morbidity and mortality,” said Dr. Lednev.

Researchers hope that unlocking the chemical properties of amyloids may lead to a better understanding of Alzheimer’s and its profoundly devastating impact.

Doctoral students Manuel F. Rosario-Alomar and Tatiana Quiñones-Ruiz from the University of Puerto Rico work in Igor Lednev's lab.

Through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) developmental program, Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE), Dr. Lednev is providing research opportunities to Quiñones-Ruiz and Rosario-Alomar, who are from the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), Mayaguez.

The collaboration has already led to an article in the Journal of Physical Chemistry on the role of hydrogen sulfide as an inhibitor of amyloid formation. Lednev and his students are now developing a manuscript reporting on the discovery of purple amyloid fibrils, a new type of colored protein aggregate.

Based on the success of the venture to date, UPR Mayaguez is working on a grant renewal through NIH.