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WVU professor to hold forum on Alzheimer's disease

By Candace Nelson

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - With an estimated 5.4 million people in the United States living with Alzheimer's disease, one researcher at West Virginia University hopes to shed light on his research that could eventually lead to strategies to control or cure the disease.

Justin Legleiter, assistant professor of chemistry, will present "Cracking the Code on What Triggers Alzheimer's" on April 9 as part of the Eberly Ideas Discussion Series.

Legleiter will talk about how his work decodes neurodegenerative disorders, like Alzheimer's, during the lecture and open forum. His research demonstrates the possible connections between changes in a cell's surface and if that leads to an increased risk for Alzheimer's disease. He hopes his research could one day lead to strategies for managing or curing the disease.

"We want to understand two things: what properties of the cell surface and the protein make the initial binding happen. And after that, we want to understand how the protein changes the membrane. Does that lead to something that could be detrimental to the cell?" Legleiter said.

Alzheimer's is a neurodegenerative disorder that diminishes people's memories, perceptions and cognitive skills.

Legleiter hopes his discussion will bring out people who have been touched by Alzheimer's in some way.

"It's interesting to talk to people who are interested in what you're doing for whatever reason. You get some really interesting questions from people that you might have overlooked when you're so involved. It's personal to people who have relatives who have Alzheimer's," he said.

Legleiter became interested in Alzheimer's research after conducting similar research for a professor but found more practical use in what he's doing.

"Helping to try to figure out how disease works and contributing to finding a way to cure Alzheimer's was a lot more exciting," he said. "That started in 2000, and about two years ago, I had my own personal story when my grandpa passed away and developed Alzheimer's in the end. I didn't start with a personal connection, but since then, I developed one. It's becoming harder to find someone who doesn't have a personal connection. The real tragedy is someone who works their whole life, has a family, and their last couple of years, they don't get to enjoy them. Don't remember them. That's what's really tragic, to me."

Legleiter joined WVU in 2008. He earned his bachelor's degree in chemistry from Murray State University and his doctoral degree in chemistry from Carnegie Mellon University. Legleiter received the National Sciences Foundation Faculty Early Career Development and the Alzheimer's Association New Investigator Research grants for his work

The Eberly College Ideas Discussion Series is a form devoted to promoting the exchange of ideas and highlighting timely research from the faculty.

The event is in collaboration with Alzheimer's Association West Virginia.

"Last year Dr. Legleiter earned one of the Alzheimer's Association's prestigious New Investigator Research grants to help fund his research," Jane Marks, executive director of the Alzheimer's Association, said in a release. "We are thrilled to be a partner in presenting this Eberly Ideas, to help connect our community with not only the care and support resources of the Alzheimer's Association, but the research side of our Association as well."

The discussion will take place at 7 p.m. at the Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center in Room 2000. The event is free and open to the public. To RSVP, send an email, with names of people attending and the subject "Eberly Ideas," to

For more information about this event or the Eberly Ideas Discussion Series, contact Devon Copeland, development officer, at 304-293-6867 or

Contact writer Candace Nelson at or 304-348-5148. Follow her on Twitter



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