Dr. Shigemi Nagai, associate professor of Oral Medicine, Infection and Immunity, and director of clinical research at HSDM, was recently awarded a National Academy of Medicine (NAM) Catalyst Award as part of the Healthy Longevity Global Competition, a multiyear, multimillion-dollar international competition seeking breakthrough innovations to extend human health and function later in life. Nagai is the only dentist to receive the award among the 150 awards issued in the inaugural round of the competition.
Nagai’s winning submission titled “Paradigm Shift in the Molecular Transport to Brain Through the Direct Central Nerve-Innervation Based Retrograde Axonal Transport of Craniofacial Tissue Exosomes (RATCE),” will investigate the expression profile of neurotrophins in craniofacial tissues, and their effects on preventing the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
Dr. Nagai, along with collaborators Drs. John Da Silva, Albert Galaburda, and Masazumi Nagai, is interested in the potential of the trigeminal nerve as a transport mechanism for the delivery of molecules to the brain. Craniofacial nerves are unique in the body since they directly innervate the brain.
“We conducted a preliminary study to look at whether masseter-derived neprilysin could be transported to the hippocampus through the trigeminal, and had positive findings in that study,” said Nagai. “We have been further investigating the physiological role and pharmacological application of retrograde axonal transport of craniofacial tissue-derived molecules in exosomes.”
“This paradigm shift may enable us to treat diseases such as Alzheimer’s and other diseases of the brain,” Nagai added.
NAM’s Healthy Longevity Global Challenge Grant award will provide $50,000 in seed funding to allow the research team to further investigate the expression profile of neurotrophins in craniofacial tissues, and their effects on Alzheimer’s disease.