Institute for Translational Neuroscience


The Institute for Translational Neuroscience's greatest strength is bringing together different groups under one common goal: to advance neuroscience research at the University of Minnesota.

The Institute for Translational Neuroscience (ITN) was established in 2007 as a University-wide presidential initiative to promote the transfer of discoveries in the basic neurosciences to clinical practice. The institute is charged to enhance basic science discovery with new knowledge leading to subsequent clinical trials and establishment of new therapeutic principles or tools.

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Research Spotlight

ITN Scholar Karen Ashe and her team identify potential target for developing new Alzheimer's treatments

Dr. Karen Ashe

ITN is proud to recognize Dr. Karen Ashe, ITN scholar, Department of Neurology Professor, and Director of the N. Bud Grossman Center for Memory Research and Care, and her team on their latest advancements in the field of Alzheimer’s research. In the current issue of Nature Medicine, Dr. Ashe’s study identified a potential target for treating Alzheimer’s disease, which reversed memory loss in mice. This discovery could translate into new treatments and provide insight into what may be causing the disease.

“We’ve identified a target that could be utilized to develop new treatments to restore communication between neurons within the brain,” said Karen Ashe, M.D., Ph.D., professor in the Department of Neurology and senior author of the study. Ashe is also the Founding Director of the N. Bud Grossman Center for Memory Research and Care. Xiaohui Zhao, Ph.D., a research associate in the Ashe lab, led the research.”

Ashe’s team looked for a mechanism that could be affecting tau, a protein believed to contribute to cell death and memory impairment. Tau is normal and healthy for the body, but in Alzheimer’s patients, it changes, and clumps together irregularly, causing memory loss. The study was conducted using a mouse model.

Ashe’s team examined several possible causes and found that caspase-2, a naturally-occurring enzyme, may be the culprit. Researchers also discovered tau accumulates in neurons when caspase-2 cleaves, or cuts, healthy tau at a particular point.
By reducing caspase-2, or preventing caspase-2 from cutting tau entirely, recovery of memory deficits could be possible. It’s possible an intervention could even restore cognition.
“This is a significant step forward in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss,” Ashe said. “Next, we hope to collaborate with our colleagues in drug development to translate this towards care, with the hope to help improve and preserve the quality of life for those struggling with memory-related conditions.”
Several other University of Minnesota researchers were co-authors of the study including Linda Kotilinek, Benjamin Smith, Chris Hlynialuk, Kathleen Zahs, Martin Ramsden and James Cleary.

The full announcement can be found on the Medical School’s blog:


Our main goal is to attract and recruit top scientists to shape discoveries that will lead to tomorrow's cures. The institute exemplifies how different disciplines, departments, and centers can work together in partnership to evolve neurological disease research at the University of Minnesota. We have built a community that encourages learning, education, innovation, and discovery all of which are more successful in a team oriented environment. 


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