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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Molecular Atlas of Alzheimer’s Disease Stages

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) affects 5 million people in the United States and 110,000 people in Wisconsin. Despite a national cost exceeding $200 billion, neither prevention nor treatment is available. The “Molecular Atlas of Alzheimer’s Disease Stages” aims for a better understanding of the metabolic pathways in Alzheimer’s. The research will study records and blood samples (some as old as 15 years) selected from 2,300 patients stored in the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer’s Prevention and the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.

Distinct phenotypes of the disease have emerged from UW-Madison’s intensive focus on the condition’s pre-symptomatic stages. Using precision mass spectrometry, the blood and plasma samples will be analyzed for metabolites relevant to Alzheimer’s, seeking to identify trends and markers for progressive forms of the disease. The project will correlate the AD phenotypes with metabolomic trends related to inflammation, ischemia, insulin signaling and oxidative stress, and then correlate these findings with 23 genetic polymorphisms known to be associated with Alzheimer’s.

Through a combination of metabolomic data, brain imaging and genetic analysis, the project aims to improve understanding of the nature and rate of cognitive decline among patients. Improved ability to track and anticipate the progression of AD will help in the development and evaluation of preventative drugs.

Principal Investigator

  • Sterling Johnson
    Jean R. Finley Professor of Geriatrics and Dementia,
    Associate Director, Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center


  • Joshua Coon
    Chemistry and Biomolecular Chemistry
  • Kirk Hogan
  • Corinne Engelman
    Associate Professor
    Population Health Sciences
  • Vikas Singh
    Associate Professor
    Biostatistics and Computer Science
  • Barbara Bendlin
    Associate Professor
  • Sanjay Asthana
    UWSMPH Associate Dean for Gerontology; Director of Wisconsin ADRC