The principal research interests of Michelle M. Mielke, Ph.D., are to further the understanding of the epidemiology of neurodegenerative diseases and psychiatric disorders.
A primary focus of Dr. Mielke's research is the identification of biomarkers for the diagnosis, prediction and/or progression of Alzheimer's disease, as well as other neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric conditions.
Much of her work has emphasized both lipid markers — particularly sphingolipids (ceramides and sphingomyelins) — and neuroimaging markers.
- Can we predict who will develop Alzheimer's disease and other dementias? Changes in the brain begin many years before people develop cognitive symptoms. Dr. Mielke is working to understand how the brain changes in people who are cognitively normal and what factors predict who will develop these brain changes and cognitive impairment.
She is also examining computer-based technology for the detection of mild cognitive impairment and preclinical stages of Alzheimer's disease, with a goal of enabling characterization of subjects who might be eligible for early interventions with therapies.
- Can we identify new treatment targets for Alzheimer's disease and other dementias?
Sphingolipids are associated with cell signaling and cell death. Dr. Mielke is working to understand how changes in the sphingolipid pathway — in both the blood and cerebrospinal fluid — are associated with brain pathology and Alzheimer's disease.
This work may lead to the development of new treatment targets for neurodegenerative conditions.
- Do risk factors for vascular disease and cognitive decline differ in women and men? Dr. Mielke is involved in the Specialized Center for Research on Sex Differences at Mayo Clinic. She is helping to examine whether a history of hypertensive pregnancy disorders and hormone use are risk factors for mortality, cardiovascular disease and cognitive impairment.
Significance to patient care
Dr. Mielke's research will help to better understand the risk factors and brain pathology associated with the development of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. This understanding will help to identify early diagnostic and prognostic indicators for the prevention of Alzheimer's disease.
Her research on sphingolipids will help to identify new drug targets for the treatment and prevention of neurodegenerative conditions.
- Associate Editor, Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, 2012
- Scholar, National Institute of Mental Health Advanced Research Institute in Geriatric Psychiatry, 2010
- Junior Investigator Award, International College of Geriatric Psychoneuropharmacology, 2007
- Harold and Sylvia Halpert Endowment Award, Department of Mental Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 2005