Room 311, Sanders-Brown Center on Aging
800 South Limestone Street
Lexington, KY 40536-0230
Pathology, Division of Neuropathology and Sanders-Brown Center on Aging
Non-coding RNA in neurodegenerative disease
Dr. Pete Nelson is an experimental neuropathologist focusing on Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Nelson is the Director of the Neuropathology Division of the Pathology Department, and he also directs the brain bank and the Neuropathology Core of the University of Kentucky Alzheimer’s Disease Center. He is responsible for the Alzheimer’s Disease Center brain autopsies. These autopsies are performed with profound respect for the volunteers who are enabling us to help combat this dreadful disease. Dr. Nelson’s career is motivated partly by his own grandmother, Sylvia “Tib” Becker, who died with Alzheimer's disease.
In addition to duties as a neuropathologist, Dr. Nelson is an experimental researcher focusing on the molecular neurochemistry of the human brain — in health and in neurodegenerative disease — particularly in the context of RNA biology. The study of small regulatory RNAs is a relatively new and unexplored research field with much potential. Dr. Nelson's work has focused upon microRNAs (miRNAs). He invented new techniques to analyze and manipulate these small molecules, and studies how miRNA biology is altered in neurodegenerative diseases. Dr. Nelson seeks both to understand how miRNAs contribute to disease pathogenesis, and to explore how specially-designed RNAs may be applied for therapeutic strategies.
A multi-institutional study co-led by Dr. Nelson has defined and established criteria for a new neurological disease called primary age-related tauopathy (PART). Patients with PART develop cognitive impairment that can be indistinguishable from Alzheimer’s disease, but lack amyloid plaques that are a hallmark of AD. Awareness of this neurological disease will help doctors diagnose and develop more effective treatments for patients with different types of memory impairment. In this video clip, Dr. Nelson explains the impetus behind the new diagnosis criteria using asthma and pneumonia as an example of how a general diagnosis (breathing difficulty) might lead to ineffective (or even detrimental) treatment.