Shaker senior conducts research to combat Alzheimer’s

LATHAM, N.Y. (NEWS10) – A Shaker High School student has put his mind to work to help save the minds of others.

For the past three years, Muhammad Ali has been conducting research focused on stopping Alzheimer’s disease early on. Ali is being credited with finding a way to potentially stop the disease at its core by manipulating a protein.

As a class project, Ali teamed up with professors at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the University at Albany to research amyloid beta, a protein that clumps together and damages the brain.

“This is the only known natural inhibitor of Alzheimer’s disease, so no one had actually studied it before,” Ali said.

Dr. Igor Lednev is a chemistry professor at UAlbany. He mentored Ali for more than a year, and helped the twelfth grader use laser-based technology to pick apart the protein and learn why it has a lethal effect.

“What this means is if we will understand how this protein misfolds, we may find a way how to slow down or reverse this prognosis, and that will mean fighting the disease,” Dr. Lednev said.

The research discovered a way to alter that protein’s structure to reverse its debilitating effects.

“It went from something that causes Alzheimer’s disease to prevent Alzheimer’s disease,” Ali said.

Ali is one of 300 semifinalists in the prestigious Intel Science Talent Research Competition which has resulted in a $1,000 award for him and Shaker High.

Ali is publishing his data, which will then go to drug companies. He’s hoping he can make a medication of his altered protein to fight the disease.

“We are taking a step back and this research helps us do that because it helps us understand the pathology of the disease itself, and hopefully, produce a disease modifying drug in the future which will affect the disease at its core and kill the disease as soon as it starts,” he said.

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