Arizona Researchers Receive 2.5-million NIH award

Arizona Researchers Receive 2.5-million NIH award to Study Gene Expression and it's Impact on Treatment of Alzheimer's Disease

October 29, 2003

A $2.5 million five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded to The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and the Arizona Alzheimer's Disease Consortium (ADC) will enable investigation into the early causes of Alzheimer's disease (AD), the most common form of memory loss and brain disorders in older persons. This NIH grant combines the expertise and resources of the ADC and TGen.

The project's principal investigator is Dr. Dietrich Stephan, Director of Neurogenomics at TGen. The co-principal investigators are Drs. Joe Rogers, President and Senior Scientist at the Sun Health Research Institute, and Eric Reiman, Director of the Arizona ADC.

"This collaboration has allowed us to become one of only three centers in the US awarded funds for this project. With the national competition for grant dollars severe, this award not only emphasizes the importance of this research, but is the first of what I hope is a great deal of research funding coming to the state of Arizona due in part to these types of collaborations," said Dr. Rogers.

The planned study seeks to provide new information about the genes that are turned on or off in the brains of patients with AD and how these genes contribute to each of the microscopic and brain imaging abnormalities found in these individuals. New information will also be sought about the genes that are most affected by normal aging. The findings will contribute to a scientific database for researchers around the world, supporting further studies of AD and brain aging, and assisting in the discovery of drugs to treat these conditions.

"Information about the genes expressed during the course of Alzheimers disease could improve our understanding of the molecular mechanisms involved in the development of this catastrophic and increasingly common disease," said Dr. Stephan.

This collaborative research study is funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and includes scientists from TGen, the NIA-sponsored Alzheimer's Disease Centers in Arizona, Washington University in St. Louis, Duke University, University of Washington, and the National Alzheimer's Coordinating Center. Researchers working on this project from the Arizona ADC are located at the Sun Health Research Institute, Mayo Clinic Scottsdale, and Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center.

Sun Health's Rogers believes his Institute's research on AD can be accelerated in part through its collaboration with TGen.

"This research award takes advantage of TGen's state-of-the-art methods in genetics, genomics, and proteomics, its commitment to the study of brain disorders," says Dr. Rogers. "Their expertise dovetails nicely with the progress we've made through our research efforts."

The Arizona ADC's remarkable brain donation program, located at the Sun Health Research Institute, and the ADC's internationally recognized strengths in the brain imaging and basic neuroscientific study of AD will add greatly to the study. Study findings could provide new targets against which to aim drugs for the treatment and prevention of AD, and perhaps even targets against which to aim anti-aging therapies. Data from the study will be deposited into a public database administered by the NINDS/NIMH Array Consortium, which will allow other scientists to conduct further analyses.

"We are extremely excited about the chance to capitalize on Arizona's remarkable scientific resources in the study of AD," says Dr. Reiman, Clinical Director of Neurogenomics at TGen and Director of the ADC, "and we're excited about the chance to help in the scientific effort to create a world without Alzheimer's."

"This is the first of what we hope are many genetic, genomic, and proteomic studies to further understand a disease that afflicts so many people in our State and around the world," said Stephan.

About TGen
The mission of the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) is to make and translate genomic discoveries into advances in human health. "Translational genomics research" is a relatively new field employing innovative advances arising from the Human Genome Project to apply to the development of diagnostics, prognostics and therapies for cancer, neurologic disorders, diabetes and other complex diseases.

About the Arizona ADC
The Arizona ADC is a statewide research program involving eight of the states leading biomedical research organizations. It includes the state-supported Arizona Alzheimer's Research Center and the NIA-sponsored Arizona Alzheimer's Disease Core Center.

About Sun Health Research Institute
Sun Health Research Institute is a non-profit center dedicated to studies of aging and age-related diseases. Scientists at the Institute are internationally recognized at all levels, from the laboratory to the clinic. The Institute's brain bank, one of the largest in the world for Alzheimer's research, provides to hundreds of scientists critical tissue samples on which studies such as the collaboration with TGen depend.

Galen Perry
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