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NextGen Discovery Series – August 14, 2024

“Decoding the Chemistry Behind Alzheimer’s Disease Therapies”

Artist's Rendering of a 3D Neural NetworkSpeaker: Michael R. Nichols, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, Director of the biochemistry and biotechnology program, University of Missouri-St. Louis, President of the American Society for Neurochemistry

Date: Tuesday August 14, 2024, noon-1 p.m.

Location: UMSL Millennium Student Center, The Chamber

*Zoom option available

 Register Here



Protein aggregation and accumulation is a key aspect of Alzheimer’s disease

The aggregation and accumulation of amyloid beta protein (Aβ) is widely considered to be the cause of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), while aggregated tau protein is associated with the clinical manifestations of AD. The two proteins are the most outstanding pathological features of the disease and can be observed as fiber/filament-like structures in the brain as senile plaques (Aβ) and neurofibrillary tangles (tau). A longstanding effort in my laboratory has been to define the conditions that influence Aβ aggregation and identify the biophysical features that trigger biological activity. A major part of this has been to study formation of soluble aggregation intermediates and their properties. We have discovered over the course of many years that Aβ42 protofibrils have numerous unique properties that encourage interactions with immune cells. The overall data indicates Aβ42 protofibrils readily interact with, and are rapidly taken up, by brain immune cells. Furthermore, Aβ42 protofibrils trigger early and robust inflammation via cell-surface receptors and intracellular pathways. Those, and additional findings, demonstrate numerous mechanisms by which Aβ42 directly interacts with immune cells of the brain. In two separate additional projects, we have developed a sensitive and selective antibody to Aβ42 protofibrils and, are further exploring the details of Aβ42-stimulated inflammation. The rationale is to better understand how Aβ42 creates a toxic inflammatory environment in the brain during the course of AD.


About the Speaker

A portrait of Michael Nichols, PhDDr. Michael R. Nichols is a Professor in the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL) Chemistry & Biochemistry Department and the Director of the UMSL Biochemistry & Biotechnology Program. He earned a BS in Chemistry from Lindenwood College and a PhD in Chemistry & Biochemistry at Purdue University. Following a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Neuroscience at Mayo Clinic Jacksonville, he began his career at UMSL in the Fall of 2004. His research focuses on the biochemistry of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Specifically, he researches the biophysics of the amyloid-β protein (Aβ) and the mechanisms by which Aβ impacts immune cells and inflammatory pathways.


The Discovery Series

The NextGen Precision Health Discovery Series provides learning opportunities for UM System faculty and staff across disciplines, the statewide community and our other partners to learn about the scope of precision health research and identify potential collaborative opportunities. The series consists of monthly lectures geared toward a broad multidisciplinary audience so all can participate and appreciate the spectrum of precision health efforts. 

For questions about this event or any others in the Discovery Series, please reach out to Veronica Lemme at