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John Haran works to understand how microbiome impacts development of Alzheimer’s disease

New grant from Alzheimer’s Association supports study

Liz McCarthy, regional director of Health Systems at the Alzheimer’s Association, recognizes John P. Haran, MD, PhD,
for his research.

John P. Haran, MD, PhD, associate professor of emergency medicine and microbiology & physiological systems and clinical director of the Center for Microbiome Research, has been awarded a 2019 Alzheimer’s Association research grant to support research into how the intestinal microbiome differs in Alzheimer’s patients and whether imbalances associate with memory decline. Dr. Haran will receive approximately $150,000 over three years.

“We think that an unhealthy microbiome, or specifically one that causes inflammation, will be associated with Alzheimer’s disease and that elders with greater dysfunction of their microbiome will have a more rapid decline in their cognition,” said Dr. Haran. “Understanding how the intestinal microbiome impacts the development and progression of the disease will provide novel therapeutic targets and enable future trials aimed at improving the memory of patients.”

Alzheimer’s disease is the most frequent cause of dementia. There is no cure and treatment options are limited for the more than five million Americans living with the disease.

Haran collaborates with Beth McCormick, PhD, vice chair and professor of microbiology & physiological systems and director of the Center for Microbiome Research; Doyle Ward, PhD, associate professor of microbiology & physiological systems; and Vanni Bucci, PhD, associate professor of microbiology & physiological systems.

The human intestinal microbiome is the community of microorganisms that live within people and have been linked to human health and disease. Scientists have recently found that imbalances in the microbiome are connected to several neurodegenerative disorders. These investigations into the microbiome, however, have been limited among Alzheimer’s patients, Haran said.

“This is a promising field of study as the disease is thought to be linked to chronic infections and the intestinal microbiome might just be the source of these infections,” he said.

In this study, Haran will compare the microbiome of elderly patients with Alzheimer’s to those without dementia. He will follow these subjects for one to two years to assess how their memory and thinking change over time and if this can be linked back to the makeup of their microbiome.

Related links on UMassMedNow:
Beth McCormick, John Haran explore link between microbiome and Alzheimer’s disease
John Haran focusing on microbiome to understand C. difficile in nursing homes