Student research on Alzheimer’s aims to better understand disease

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According to the National Institute of Health, more than 6.5 million Americans ages 65 and older are currently living with Alzheimer’s dementia. This staggering figure highlights the pressing need for continued research and understanding of this complex and often misunderstood disease.

The BYU College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences hosted its annual student research conference on Feb. 24. Students from different departments presented the findings of their scientific inquiries. Among the attendees were students dedicated to understanding Alzheimer’s disease.

Zabdi Hernández, a neuroscience student, has been a regular participant in the conference for the past three years, presenting his findings from Professor John Price’s chemistry and biochemistry lab. Hernández’s research examines how Alzheimer’s disease affects the body at a fundamental level.

“Alzheimer’s or other diseases like that also affect in essence who we are and how we express ourselves and who we are to other people,” Hernández said.

Hernández’s research specifically explores how the brain controls and regulates fats differently in the presence of risk factors for Alzheimer’s. His presentation centered on the role of fats in the brains of mice, aiming to uncover any significant changes associated with the disease.

Ariel Kelsch, a graduate student researcher, is also engaged in Alzheimer’s research, albeit from a different perspective. While Hernández’s team studies lipids, Kelsch’s team observes changes in proteins.

“Together we can hopefully create a complex picture when we put everything together,” Kelsch said.

Ultimately, Hernández hopes their collective findings will contribute to combating Alzheimer’s effects in its early stages. 

“If some of the fats in your brain or in your body are processed differently, then it’d be possible maybe to make a drug or find a drug that could help undo those effects,” Hernández said.

The conference is a platform for students to share their contributions and receive feedback from peers. Hernández expressed the significance of this experience for him.

“It’s just really meaningful to share with other people … that, what we do, does have an impact,” Hernández said.

BYU continues to be at the forefront of mentored research opportunities, offering tremendous value for students like Hernández and Kelsch who are dedicated to making meaningful contributions to scientific understanding.

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