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Assistant professor of bioinformatics, Jingwen Yan

A $428,244 NIH grant will enable Yan to explore genetic basis of Alzheimer’s

November 14, 2019

Much of how our brains get built is inherited. And parts of this neural network are affected by Alzheimer’s disease.

Jingwen Yan (pictured above), an assistant professor of bioinformatics at the IU School of Informatics and Computing at IUPUI, has received a $428,244 National Institutes of Health R21 grant to explore the genetic basis of Alzheimer’s-altered brain connectivity from a novel perspective by studying the genetic coordination underlying brain connectivity.

“We expect this work to pave the way for unprecedented discovery related to understanding disease mechanisms and the development of therapeutic strategies and diagnostic markers,” she says.

Yan’s grant is titled “Gene Co-Expression Underlying the Connectomic Alterations in Alzheimer’s Disease”

Researchers know there is a close relationship between gene co-expression and the brain’s structural and functional networks, but it isn’t yet clear what genes are responsible.

“Identification of these genes will transform our understanding of the biological underpinnings of altered neural system in Alzheimer’s disease,” says Yan, “and can exert a huge impact on the development of new diagnostic, therapeutic and preventative approaches for Alzheimer’s.”

Pinpointing these genes has been difficult, because neural network data is so complex.

Using her NIH exploratory/developmental research grant, Yan is developing novel integrative approaches, and is eager to identify:

  • Functional and structural brain networks altered in Alzheimer’s disease
  • Genes whose co- expression network is associated with the networks altered in  Alzheimer’s

“Identification of these genes…can exert a huge impact on the development of new diagnostic, therapeutic and preventative approaches for Alzheimer’s.”
Jingwen Yan

“By leveraging the brain-wide transcriptome data, we will learn a set of genes whose co-expression patterns across the  brain regions of interest can best explain their altered connections in Alzheimer’s,” Yan says.

“If successful, results from this project will transform our understanding of the interplay between genes and brain regions in Alzheimer’s disease, and thus be expected to impact biomedical research in general and benefit public health outcomes.”


An NIH R21 Exploratory/Developmental Grant is intended to encourage exploratory/developmental research by providing support for the early and conceptual stages of project development. The NIH has standardized the Exploratory/Developmental Grant (R21) application characteristics, requirements, preparation, and review procedures in order to accommodate investigator-initiated (unsolicited) grant applications. These grants fund exploratory, novel studies that break new ground or extend previous discoveries toward new directions or applications.

The research is supported by the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number 1R21AG066135-01. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of   the National Institutes of Health.

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