My Grandmother’s Alzheimer’s Journey: AxoSim Research Assistant Charlotte Pearson Shares Her Story and Passion for Better Research

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My grandmother was an avid cook, gardener, and Lakers fan. When she was 67, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The disease progressed slowly, thanks in part to an experimental Alzheimer’s drug study she participated in, and this gave us more time to spend with the woman we loved. For a short time after her diagnosis, my grandmother and I were able to continue our movie nights and ice cream dates; this extra time was precious to me, and I remain grateful to the scientists who were able to give us an interim treatment.

However, as the years went on, the woman I knew faded, recognizing our family only as caregivers instead of loved ones. The disease impacted both her mind and body. She was unable to tell time, or to solve her favorite crossword puzzles, and eventually she could not verbally communicate. It is enormously difficult to love and care for someone with Alzheimer’s, and watching my grandmother’s struggle cemented my resolve to pursue research into the disease in hopes of contributing to a cure.

At AxoSim, our Human BrainSim® model is capable of revolutionizing research of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. AxoSim’s BrainSim® technology is a representative model of the human brain. We use human induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) technology, which has changed the face of preclinical research, and these iPSC-derived cell types can be used to study neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s studies with human postmortem brains represent only the characteristics of end-stage disease, so there is a clear need to establish human-relevant models to define molecular and pathogenic pathways in the disease(1). 3D cell cultures like those used at AxoSim offer just such a model, and provide several advantages for Alzheimer’s research. In general, 3D iPSC cultures allow for the possibility of age-dependent accumulation of Aβ and tau aggregates (2 markers of the disease) within months, they can be maintained in vitro for years, and they do not require exogenous overexpression of mutant proteins for the development of disease-relevant pathologies(1).

With so many benefits, iPSC models are an exciting new approach to Alzheimer’s research, and are likely to facilitate novel insights into Alzheimer’s pathomechanisms. I am excited by the possibilities of AxoSim’s cutting edge iPSC technology and for the future of Alzheimer’s research.

(1)Penney, J., Ralvenius, W.T. & Tsai, LH. Modeling Alzheimer’s disease with iPSC-derived brain cells. Mol Psychiatry 25, 148–167 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41380-019-0468-3