Frontotemporal dementia and related disorders: transcriptomic profiling, biomarker discovery, and mechanistic insight

Project: Research project

Project Details


PROJECT SUMMARY/ABSTRACT We seek to discover novel biomarkers and drug targets for frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and related disorders. FTD is a fatal neurodegenerative disorder that demonstrates substantial clinical, genetic, and pathological overlap with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Although both diseases can display TAR DNA- binding protein 43 (TDP-43) pathology, much remains unknown about the underlying mechanisms. It has been suggested that RNA processing pathways play a vital role, which is exemplified by the description of mutations in genes encoding RNA-binding proteins and the abundance of splicing defects in TDP-43 proteinopathies. Given the fact that long-read sequencing techniques have a higher accuracy in splice junctions, a better recovery of large transcripts, and detect more alternative splicing events than traditional sequencing methods that rely on short reads, we will produce full-length long-read transcriptomic data. We will examine a well- characterized pathological cohort of patients belonging to the FTD-ALS spectrum for whom frontal cortex and cerebellar tissue are available. Additionally, we will create single-nuclei long-read sequencing data, enabling us to determine in which cell type specific transcript variants are detected. This innovative approach will allow us to capture transcriptomic diversity, aiding the identification of novel, disease-specific, and/or disease-relevant transcript variants (Aim 1). We will compare the RNA signature observed in the brain to that seen in a large collection of clinical blood specimens. Moreover, we will assess differences between presymptomatic and symptomatic individuals and evaluate changes over time. These studies give us the ability to reveal interesting biomarker candidates, which will be validated in our extensive biospecimen collection (Aim 2). To elucidate the mechanisms underpinning these diseases, we will also perform in-depth mechanistic studies using various cell culture models, in vivo systems, and post-mortem tissues from patients along the FTD-ALS spectrum (Aim 3). Our original strategy, thorough characterization, and precious sample collection, will accelerate the discovery of pathological mechanisms, druggable targets and translatable biomarkers, which are highly valuable in preparation of future clinical trials for FTD and related disorders.
Effective start/end date4/15/213/31/22


  • National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: $780,935.00


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