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Renewed Funding for UK's Sanders-Brown Center

The University of Kentucky Sanders-Brown Center on Aging has received $7.5 million in renewed funding for its Alzheimer's Disease Research Center (ADRC) program from the National Institute on Aging (NIA), a division of the National Institutes of Health. The five-year award will allow UK to remain among the leaders in Alzheimer's disease research and associated neurodegenerative disorders. It will support research, teaching and service activities and a multidisciplinary team involving 13 faculty members from seven academic departments, and 27 postdoctoral and staff members.

The UK ADRC is part of a national network of federally funded and designated research programs based in academic medical settings. Initially funded in 1985, UK was one of the original 10 ADRCs in the United States. The purpose of the center is to pursue research into the causes of Alzheimer's disease and related neurodegenerative disorders and to develop new treatments.

Under the direction of William Markesbery, the grant will provide funding for three major projects and 10 pilot projects (two each year) and continue to fund the ADRC's five core areas. The grant represents the 16th year of continuous funding of the ADRC.

"This is the centerpiece of what we do here," says Markesbery, center director and professor of pathology and neurology in the UK College of Medicine. "This grant allows us to provide research support to investigators throughout the UK Chandler Medical Center."

The major projects funded under the grant are focused on mechanisms of synapse and neuron degeneration, the blocking of amyloid deposits (which have been found in the brains of Alzheimer's patients), and examining whether breakdown products of lipid peroxidation found in the brains of Alzheimer's disease patients can serve as markers that indicate the effectiveness of experimental therapies.

Over the last four years, researchers at the center have generated 390 scholarly publications related to Alzheimer's disease, and the center has been a part of or supportive of 53 research grant awards. Advances have been made in understanding the basic causes of the disease and cell death, including learning more about the oxidative stress hypothesis, one of the current leading theories of the cause of Alzheimer's disease. The hypothesis is that buildups of free radicals may lead to the neuron death that characterizes the disease.

"Ten years ago there was enormous pessimism about Alzheimer's," says Charles Smith, associate professor of neurology in the UK College of Medicine. "Once you made the diagnosis, that was pretty much it. Now, prevention of Alzheimer's looks realistic, and that has grown out of research at centers like ours."

The ADRC at Sanders-Brown also provides comprehensive services. In conjunction with the UK Department of Neurology, it operates a Memory Disorders Clinic to diagnose and work with people who have memory problems. Since 1985, more than 2,200 patients have been evaluated in the clinic. During the past four years, almost 1,000 new patients have been seen in the clinic.

About 60,000 Kentuckians have Alzheimer's, and, nationally, four million people are estimated to have the disease.

The Alzheimer's Disease Research Center Core Areas

Vikki Franklin, Chandler Medical Center Public Relations