UF investigators to study possible link between sepsis and cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease

University of Florida researchers have been awarded a $2.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to investigate mechanisms that could explain how sepsis is related to cognitive decline in seniors who have underlying Alzheimer’s disease-related pathology.

headshots of three doctors
(From left) Drs. Paramita Chakrabarty, Lyle Moldawer, and Stefan Prokop.

Using rodent models of Alzheimer’s disease, the multidisciplinary research team will study mechanisms involved with systemic inflammation and whether systemic inflammation could exacerbate cognitive decline in sepsis survivors.

Led by Paramita Chakrabarty, Ph.D., an associate professor of neuroscience; Lyle Moldawer, Ph.D., a professor of surgery and director of the UF Sepsis and Critical Illness Research Center; and Stefan Prokop, M.D., an assistant professor of pathology and director of the UF Neuromedicine Human Brain and Tissue Bank, the research team will aim to determine whether there are molecular links between sepsis and worsening of Alzheimer’s dementia, as well as whether targeting specific immune modulators could mitigate detrimental effects.

“Sepsis is unfortunately a too frequent occurrence in older hospitalized patients, and little is known about how septic events influence the initiation and progression of Alzheimer’s disease,” Moldawer said.

The researchers will examine Alzheimer’s-related proteins in rodent models of different ages as well as track brain and systemic changes following survivable sepsis.

“We know that elderly sepsis survivors are three times more likely to undergo severe cognitive decline compared with their healthy peers,” Chakrabarty said. “And some studies have also indicated that patients suffering from dementia are at higher risk of worsened clinical outcomes following sepsis-related hospitalization.”