SIU Medicine Group to Study COVID’s Potential Effects on Alzheimer’s

Published Date:

Medical researchers at SIU School of Medicine’s Neuroscience Institute are studying how the novel coronavirus may accelerate the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Their data could help identify patients that are more susceptible to the disease’s cognitive and physical decline.

Erin Hascup, PhD, director of the Center for Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders and associate professor in the Departments of Neurology and Pharmacology at Southern Illinois University (SIU) School of Medicine and Kevin Hascup, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Neurology, Neuroscience Institute, are leading the laboratory team. Previously, the group had been awarded $6.7 million in grants from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study how glutamate dysregulation, inflammation and cellular senescence within the brain affects the cognitive decline of Alzheimer’s disease patients. The research may produce useful early biomarkers and therapeutic targets for fighting the disease.

Drs. Erin Hascup and Kevin Hascup teamed up with Michael Olson, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology, Immunology and Cell Biology (MMICB), to conduct this COVID-19 research together. Andrew Wilber, PhD, associate professor in MMICB, and his lab staff are providing virological expertise for the project. A $368,750 supplementary NIA grant will support the team’s work.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created an unparalleled health crisis. We want to help provide answers to how this new disease impacts Alzheimer’s,” said Dr. Kevin Hascup. “COVID-19-positive patients have acute respiratory infection, but there is also evidence of inflammation in the brain that may accelerate brain aging and increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. We hope that this research will help determine the effects of COVID-19 on the Alzheimer’s population, as well as if COVID-19 changes your susceptibility to, or progression, of the disease.”

“With 5.7 million Americans currently living with Alzheimer’s, our research could be groundbreaking for this segment of our population,” said Dr. Erin Hascup.

By 2050, this number is projected to rise to nearly 14 million. Early and accurate diagnosis and timely intervention could save up to $7.9 trillion in medical and care costs, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

SIU School of Medicine operates the Center for Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders, which provides clinical care, research and community programs. Since 1987, its employees have diagnosed, treated and educated Illinois residents with Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related issues. In the past year, the center, along with its Memory and Aging Network, has served more than 4,000 patients and their families. Learn more at

The mission of SIU School of Medicine is to optimize the health of the people of central and southern Illinois through education, patient care, research and service to the community. SIU Medicine, the health care practice of the school of medicine, includes clinics and offices with more than 300 providers caring for patients throughout the region.

More from SIU News

Skin Smart Campus logo

SIU School of Medicine named a Skin Smart Campus

The National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention has presented SIU School of Medicine (SIU SOM) its Skin Smart Campus Award in recognition of the school’s efforts to educate and protect against the

Introducing the Dale and Deborah Smith Center

A major gift to SIU School of Medicine will transform the health care of people throughout Illinois and beyond. Springfield couple Dale and Deborah Smith donated a substantial financial gift to the
Dr. Pimple Popper at SIU Medicine Event at the Podium

Welcome Back, Dr. Pimple Popper!

Dr. Sandra Lee, aka Dr. Pimple Popper™, returned to her prairie roots this week for the 2021 Women’s Power Night Against Cancer, Wed., April 14, at the Route 66 Drive-in Theater to help raise cancer