Daniel Willems
Daniel Willems

Speaker: Daniel Willems, doctoral student,
Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry,
Montana State University

Date: Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Time: 4:10 PM
Place: Byker Auditorium, Chemistry & Biochemistry Building
Title: Investigation of Alzheimer’s Disease Mechanisms Using
Lipid Analysis of Human Brain Cerebral Cortex


Alzheimer’s disease is, in part, characterized by a significant loss of brain mass and a decrease in the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. The brain is the second most lipid-rich tissue of the human body, second only to the adipose tissue (fat). Lipid metabolites have been sparsely studied in human tissues and rarely in the human brain. Lipid dysregulation has been implicated in many brain disorders including Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Depression and Parkinson’s disease. The molecular mechanisms involved in these disorders are poorly understood in all cases. We have studied lipid metabolites in human brain cerebral cortex of Alzheimer’s Disease patients and age matched healthy controls. We found essential precursors of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine have decreased levels of expression in Alzheimer’s disease patients. In addition, we found that several specific lipid species are dysregulated without the disregulation of the larger class of lipids.

About the speaker

Willems studies lipid abnormalities in Alzheimer’s disease (AD), nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and Type 2 diabetes, all which may be related to disregulation of metabolism. Lipid disregulation has been implicated in many brain disorders such as AD, Parkinson’s, depression and anxiety. Willems has developed an effective set of protocols to extract and analyze the lipid fraction of metabolites found in many tissues. By applying these techniques to human brain tissue, he can search for early biomarkers of the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Further, he hopes to be able to detect these biomarkers in blood plasma at relevant levels and early detection in blood would be a key to better treatment and prolonged life.

He is the recipient of a 2015 Kopriva Graduate Student Fellowship.