DIMENSIONS Spring 2005


by Cheryl Dawes

photo of ADRC information booth

With renewed funding from the National Institute on Aging and revised aims that build on past accomplishments, the University of Washington Alz-heimerís Disease Research Center (UW ADRC) is embarking on its 21st year of advancing knowledge of the causes and course of the brain changes of Alzheimerís disease (AD) and related disorders. This renewal is the fifth consecutive success in competitive review for funding for the ADRC, one of the first ten such Alzheimerís Disease Centers (ADCs) in the nation.

ADRC faculty include neurologists, psychiatrists, neuropath-ologists, neurobiologists, biostatisticians, molecular geneticists, and psychologists engaged in coordinated clinical and laboratory research. These researchers investigate scientific questions centered on the genetics of AD and related disorders and the neurobiology of human aging. The five-year funding renewal supports seven cores that constitute the backbone of the ADRC and three new research projects.

Project 1, Genetic Mapping of Late-Onset AD Genes, is led by Dr. Elaine Wijsman, research professor of Medical Genetics and Biostatistics. Wijsman and her colleagues will study genetic data collected from late-onset familial AD families and work to pinpoint chromosomal regions associated with age of onset, knowledge that can ultimately lead to the identification of genetic defects responsible for late- onset AD.

Project 2, Identification of Age of Onset Modifier Genes, is led by Dr. Gerard Schellenberg, research professor of Medicine, Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine. Schellenberg and his colleagues aim to identify new genes associated with the age of onset in AD by identifying chromosomal regions related to mutations in the presenilin 1 and presenilin 2 genes. They also plan to characterize the relationship between APOE, which is a susceptibility gene for AD, and familial AD in the presence of other inherited variables.

Project 3, CSF Proteome of Geriatric Dementias, is led by Dr. Tom Montine, Alvord professor of Neuropathology. Montine and his colleagues will study the relative differences between the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) proteins from normally aging control subjects and those from subjects with different degrees of dementia. The researchers seek to develop a protein profile of geriatric dementia and, ultimately, biomarkers for different types of dementia.

Seven cores of personnel and resources administer the ADRC, provide technical support for research and develop public outreach, training and recruitment programs.

The Administrative Core, directed by Dr. Murray Raskind, ADRC director and professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, is responsible for overall management of ADRC activities. It also helps move the Center forward and optimizes resources by soliciting proposals for pilot projects each year and augmenting pilot grant funds by generating contributions from community donors.

The Clinical Core recruits, characterizes, and follows subjects with AD, other dementia disorders and older subjects without dementia. This core, directed by Dr. Elaine Peskind, ADRC associate director, also maintains a bank of cerebrospinal fluid from well-characterized subjects that is a national resource for development of biomarkers for AD and aging.

The Data Management and Biostatistics Core is directed by Dr. Elaine Wijsman. It provides database management support to ADRC research projects, cores, and pilot projects. This core also provides support in statistical genetic design and analysis at the ADRC and other ADCs.

The Neuropathology Core, directed by Dr. Tom Montine, is part of the Pacific Northwest Dementia and Aging (PANDA) Neuropathology Group, a cooperative effort between the ADCs at the UW and Oregon Health & Science University. It provides neuropathologic diagnoses and facilitates research by collecting, storing, and distributing brain tissue and neuropathologic data.

The Minority Satellite Core, directed by Dr. Soo Borson, professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, will enroll and follow Japanese Americans who previously participated in the Kame project, an NIA-funded epidemiological study of dementia in Japanese Americans in the Seattle area that ended in 2002. The Minority Satellite Core will build on Kame accomplishments to foster inclusion of this well-characterized group of older adults in ongoing research on dementia and aging.

The Education and Information Transfer Core, directed by Dr. Linda Teri, professor of Psychosocial and Community Health, conducts activities that support outreach and training from the ADRC to patients, their caregivers, and the professional community.

The Genetics Core, directed by Dr. Thomas Bird, professor of Neurology, recruits, characterizes, obtains DNA from, and clinically follows families with AD. This core provides DNA banking for studies of AD and other dementias. It supports research aimed at identifying new dementia genes by Projects 1 and 2 and other AD investigators.

The UW ADRC has sought to facilitate cutting-edge research on AD and to enhance the clinical care of patients though education and outreach since its inception in 1985. It has made major advances in that time and looks forward to making continued meaningful contributions to the problems of AD and other later life dementing disorders.

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