Texas Tech University

Nutritional Sciences Faculty Member Explores Alzheimer's Research Efforts

Samantha Salazar

January 20, 2023

Andrew Shin

Andrew Shin, Director of the Mouse Metabolic Phenotyping Facility, shares more in-depth information on his research regarding the cause and treatment of Alzheimer's disease.

Nutritional Sciences faculty member, Andrew Shin, Ph.D., has been working to understand what could increase people's chances of developing Alzheimer's disease. His research focuses on the gut-brain communication to regulate the metabolism of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). Shin has also partaken in research efforts to determine the connection between Type 2 Diabetes and Alzheimer's disease, along with BCAA regulation in heart function.

To better understand the connection between BCAAs and Alzheimer's disease, Shin compared mice and human patients suffering from the disease to healthy counterparts. He found that mice and humans with Alzheimer's disease had elevated blood levels of BCAAs. To determine a casual relationship, he experimented on mice by altering their diet to restrict BCAAs. He then found that cognitive function can improve by implementing this new dietary restriction, and Alzheimer's disease-related pathology can be substantially reduced.

"The safest approach to lower BCAA levels in the body would be to limit the amount of BCAA intake," Shin said. 

However, Shin found it challenging for the average person to limit their BCAA intake because it is found in most food sources such as meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, eggs, beans, and nuts. Due to this challenge, Shin has introduced a new focus to his research to develop a pill that can metabolize BCAAs quickly in the body without adverse side effects. Shin has recently repurposed a compound that lowers BCAA levels in rodents. This compound has performed successfully in alleviating Alzheimer's disease without harmful side effects but has yet to be tested on humans. 

"If confirmed in humans, our findings would be able to make the public more aware of what BCAAs are and what they can do," Shin said. "This would be especially beneficial for older people or those more susceptible to developing Alzheimer's disease. It would also facilitate refining and developing different BCAA-lowering interventions to treat and slow down the disease progression." 

Shin's research firmly upholds the values and mission of the College of Human Sciences, which is to improve and enhance the human condition. The main goal of Shin's research is to develop effective BCAA-lowering strategies, either dietary or pharmacological. He aims to collaborate with other researchers to find the best treatment for Alzheimer's and other diseases with similar pathology and symptoms.