Stanford to open Alzheimer's research center

School of Medicine to take on large-scale clinical research

The Stanford University School of Medicine has received $7.3 million from the National Institutes of Health to open a new Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, the university announced Wednesday.

The center will focus on interdisciplinary research on Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, as well as on related disorders. Dozens of faculty will be involved, according to the School of Medicine.

With an estimated 5 million Americans suffering from Alzheimer's and about 300,000 living with Parkinson's, the two are the most common neurodegenerative disorders nationwide, according to the university.

Both diseases are also rapidly increasing in prevalence: By 2050, the number of Alzheimer's patients in the United States is expected to reach 13.8 million, according to the university. The new center will examine common underlying mechanisms that occur in both Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

The center will also offer educational opportunities for community members, patient caregivers, students and health-care professionals.

"This center's activities will draw on the university's unique strengths in imaging; neuroimmunity; synapse biology; biostatistics and bioinformatics; clinical assessment and research; epidemiology; and caregiver outreach,"

Victor Henderson, MD, professor of health research and policy and of neurology and neurological sciences, stated in a press release. Henderson will serve as the center's director.

"We plan to study patients at early stages of illness, as well as healthy older adults, and to follow them over time — in many instances to autopsy," he continued. "At the same time, we hope to foster new research collaborations that advance knowledge about Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and similar disorders in order to treat them more effectively and help prevent them from occurring."

Tony Wyss-Coray, PhD, professor of neurology and neurological sciences, will serve as the center's co-director. Frank Longo, MD, PhD, professor and chair of neurology and neurological sciences and Jerome Yesavage, MD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, will serve as associate directors. Michael Greicius, MD, associate professor of neurology, will lead the center's imaging core.

With the million-dollar award, which will be given to Stanford over a five-year period, the university joins more than two dozen NIH-funded Alzheimer's Disease Centers at major medical institutions throughout the United States. There are two types of these centers: Alzheimer's Disease Core Centers that provide core services in support of research and education, as well as support small pilot projects; and Alzheimer's Disease Research Centers, which, in addition, support two to three large-scale research projects.

The Stanford center's two research projects will be led by Nobel laureate Thomas Sudhof, MD, professor of molecular and cellular physiology, and Kathleen Poston, MD, assistant professor of neurology and neurological sciences.

In addition to the National Institutes of Health funding, the center's creation was made possible by donations from Stanford supporters and families, the Stanford Department of Neurology and Neurological Sciences, the School of Medicine and Stanford Health Care.

The center's clinical research will be coordinated through the Stanford Center for Memory Disorders. Those interested in participating in research can contact Christina Wyss-Coray, RN, for more information.

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