Many Boise State students may not realize all of the research that is going on right on campus.
Biology professor Troy Rohn and a group of students have been researching Alzheimer’s disease (AD) since 2000. The main goal of the AD research at Boise State is to identify a possible drug target for the treatment of the disease.
Their research has led to the development of an antibody that will help researchers determine triggers for a number of degenerative diseases. Their findings have been accepted for publication in the Journal of Neuroscience, a top international journal.
Rohn believes it is important for students to realize how serious the growth of Alzheimer’s is in Idaho.
“Alzheimer’s is the leading cause of dementia in the United States,” Rohn said. “It’s an age related disorder so it effects people typically over the age of 65 and the major symptoms are dementia which is loss of thinking skills, loss of memory and loss of higher cognitive functions.”
The AD research on Boise State’s campus serves many purposes. One purpose is to help pharmaceutical companies develop drug targets for the prevention and control of Alzheimer’s disease.
“We are trying to understand Alzheimer’s disease at the molecular level and through that understanding we develop drug targets,” Rohn said. “Alzheimer’s disease has two major microscopic trouble makers which are plaques and tangles. These two things show up in the brain of someone with Alzheimer’s and cause the death of neurons which are the brain cells and lead to the symptoms.”
The team of researchers hopes their findings have an influence on science.
“The ultimate goal is to make some impact in the field, publishing good science, and contributing to the knowledge base,” Rohn said. “The reality is most scientists aren’t winning the Nobel Prize and curing diseases. What we try to do is publish high quality research that will stimulate other scientists to pick up the baton and work further.”
Deby Kumasaka graduated from Boise State with a major in Biology and minor in Chemistry in 2006, she enjoyed doing AD research with Rohn.
“I had the opportunity to work with patients that had Alzheimer’s in different stages and interact with their families. Through my research I developed a deeper understanding of the disease and grew to appreciate even more what the patients and families were going through,” Kumasaka said. “The most exciting part was when I became a published author for the work I did with Dr. Rohn.”
Polina Kokoulina also worked on the AD research at Boise State. She has a Masters in science and human biology and loved everything about her involvement.
“I loved running the experiments, doing statistics and coming up with conclusions based on
the results and the most rewarding was, of course, getting the results,” Kokoulina said.
Rohn also enjoys his experiences as a researcher.
“There are two things that I really enjoy about the research; the discovery process and also involving students in the research has been really rewarding,” Rohn said.
Their research is instrumental in helping people of the community learn about Alzheimer’s.
“I feel it’s important for Boise State students to understand the quality of research that we do,” Rohn said. “An important thing my lab is doing is educating people about Alzheimer’s disease.”
This research is also a great way for students interested in science to get involved and get hands on experience in their field.
“This research helped me get my job and I use aspects of it in my job every day,” Kumasaka said. “I also learned a lot about the mechanisms of Alzheimer’s and the factors that cause, enhance and possibly control the neurodegeneration.”
Students who have participated in the research reap the rewards of their involvement.
“I truly believe the experience I got while in grad school shaped my future. My love for
science had a huge role to play in choosing my profession – I want to help people,” Kokoulina said.
Students who aren’t involved in science can also be impacted by the AD research.
Chris Matthews, freshman business major, was happy to learn about the AD research at Boise State.
“My grandmother has Alzheimer’s and my entire family suffers from it,” Matthews said. “If these scientists on campus can prevent others from going through what I am going through with my grandma than I will be so grateful. No one should experience this and I’m glad people are out there trying to do something about it.”
There are people who appreciate the work this team has done and this is an aspect that continues to drive them towards excellence.
“Most every person these days has someone in their family or knows someone who has been affected by this disabling disorder and when people are reaching out in hopes of helping others it is so motivating and definitely makes the work we do a very rewarding one,” Kokoulina said.
Rohn and his team have impacted many people on campus and off. The AD research will continue to make progress and involve new students in their excellence.
“You never know where your research is going to take you,” Rohn said.