DIMENSIONS Summer 2000


by Murray Raskind, M.D.

The University of Washington Alzheimer's Disease Research Center (ADRC) successfully competed for additional five years of funding beginning May 1, 2000. The $11.2 million award from the National Institute on Aging is recognition of the Center's plans for the next five years and past accomplishments. The UW ADRC's overall review score was one of the best achieved by any ADRC in the U.S. There are eight cores and four research projects funded by this Center grant. The Administration Core (Core Leader: Murray Raskind, M.D.) manages and coordinates the resources and components of the ADRC to generate and support productive and innovative research in Alzheimer's disease (AD). The Education and Information Core (Core Leader: Linda Teri, Ph.D.) provides professional and non-professional training and outreach programs to publicize the ADRC, improve clinical and research skills related to AD, and foster interest in AD and related disorders. The Clinical Core (Core Leader: Elaine Peskind, M.D.) maintains a large cohort of AD patients and normal healthy control subjects for supporting the subject recruitment needs for a broad range of research and clinical studies in AD and maintains a large bank of cerebrospinal fluid which is available to investigators at other ADRCs nationwide. The Satellite Core (Core Leader: Soo Borson, M.D.) specializes in recruitment of ethnic minorities for research, and training of young investigators for research on dementia in minority populations. The Neuropathology Core (Core Leader: Lee-Way Jin, M.D., Ph.D.) provides accurate neuropathologic diagnoses and clinico-pathological correlations, maintains the ADRC brain bank as a resource for investigators studying AD, and participates in collaborative projects involving use of brain bank material. The Cell and Tissue Bank (Core Leader: Karen Swisshelm, Ph.D.) maintains cryogenically preserved lymphoblastoid cell lines, lymphocytes and fibroblasts from biopsy and autopsy skin specimens. This Core is historically the oldest repository for non-brain cells and tissues from patients with Alzheimer disease and other neurodegenerative disorders. The Data Management and Biostatistics Core (Core Leader: Gerald van Belle, Ph.D.) provides biostatistical, epidemiological, and statistical genetic consultation and computing services to the Cores and Projects; Genotyping (Core Leader: Gerard Schellenberg, Ph.D.) prepares and banks DNA from AD patients and appropriate controls and provides the capacity to genotype new genetic markers for AD and other closely related disorders as these markers become available.

Genetic Studies of Familial AD (P.I. Thomas Bird, M.D.) has been funded since the onset of our Center in l985. It has received international recognition for its discovery and identification of genes in AD and other dementing disorders. This project continues to search for genetic causes of AD. The project has previously discovered genes for rare causes of early onset dementia and is now focusing on genetic factors in late onset AD. Late onset AD is much more common than early onset forms and the genetic factors in late onset AD are likely to be complex and difficult to determine. The project is collecting genetic information on families with three or more living persons with AD in two or more generations and analyzing DNA obtained from blood samples followed by genetic statistical methods called linkage analysis. Interested families should contact the research nurse, Ellen Nemens at 206-764-2112.

Another project, Insulin and Cortisol Interactions in AD, (P.I. Suzanne Craft, Ph.D.) is new to the Center this year. Insulin is associated with improved memory and attention in persons with AD; cortisol, a stress hormone, reduces insulin-mediated blood glucose metabolism and impairs memory in persons with AD. In this project, subjects are given insulin and/or cortisol, and they complete tests assessing memory and attention. This study will investigate the effects of insulin and cortisol on memory and other cognitive abilities in AD and normal aging and in part determine the interaction effects of these hormones on cognition.

A third project, Neuroprotective Effects of Estrogens and SERMS (P.I. Daniel Dorsa, Ph.D.) will evaluate the neuroprotective effects of estrogen and its interaction with neurotrophins and signaling mechanisms. Estrogens have documented effects on the survival and growth of target neurons in various brain regions.

A fourth project, Modulation of A-beta Production in AD, (P.I. David Cook, Ph.D) is new to the ADRC this year and focuses on amyloid. A large body of evidence suggests that Alzheimer's disease is caused by altered processing of the amyloid precursor protein (APP). The primary purpose of this project is to increase our understanding of this protein.

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