Thalia Dimopoulos said she wants to do research for the rest of her life.
That wasn’t always the case. Originally she wanted to be a hospital geriatrician. But after a research opportunity through Mason’s Office of Student Scholarship, Creative Activities, and Research (OSCAR), in which Dimopoulos explored if mushrooms could diminish the effects of Alzheimer’s disease in mice, she was hooked.
“Those are skills that really do carry on, not only for your academic a career, but one day, your professional career, too,” said Dimopoulos, whose concentration is in cognitive and behavioral neuroscience.
Working in the lab of Department of Psychology associate professor Jane Flinn, and with the approval of Mason’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, Dimopoulos fed mice who had the Alzheimer’s gene about six grams of white button mushrooms a week, about five percent of their diet, for six months.
The research builds on similar studies that have shown how mineral metabolism imbalances may play an important role in Alzheimer’s progression.
The mushrooms contain selenium, an antioxidant that improves spatial memory or, in other words, the ability to navigate space.
Dimopoulos said the mice with the Alzheimer’s gene showed a 10% improvement in navigating a water maze. The maze contained a raised platform that provides the swimming mice a safe harbor. The research tested the ability of the mice to recall the location of the platform.
Dimopoulos said such experiments can help find treatments for Alzheimer’s in people.
“The research can go further than just studying mushrooms,” Dimopoulos said. “I can see selenium-fortified human clinical trials happening even now.”
December 19, 2019