All eyes on Alzheimer’s

All eyes on Alzheimer’s

September 21, 2017

September 21, 2017

Alzheimer’s, a mysterious disease of cognitive decline, was first recognized a century ago. The unremitting illness continues to frustrate the best efforts toward treatment or prevention. A tidal wave of new cases in the coming decades threatens to overwhelm the nation’s healthcare system and bring tragedy to millions more patients and their families.

September 21st has been declared World Alzheimer’s Day by Alzheimer’s Disease International. The occasion offers an opportunity to reflect on the impressive scientific strides already made in understanding Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, while also coming to terms with the daunting challenges still facing the field.

By 2050, Alzheimer’s is expected to strike one new patient in the U.S. every 33 seconds, resulting in nearly 1 million new cases per year. It remains the only leading killer for which no effective therapy exists.

ASU is intimately involved in the war against this disease and has recently formed a path breaking, interdisciplinary contingent of leading researchers known as the ASU-Banner Neurodegenerative Disease Research Center (NDRC).

The center, headquartered at ASU’s Biodesign Institute, has just received a portion of a new $5 million grant, with three of the six researchers named in the new award belonging to the NDRC, including the center’s Interim Director Eric Reiman, M.D, a world-renowned leader in the fight against Alzheimer’s. Reiman also directs the ASU-Banner Neuroscience Initiative and is spearheading the Arizona collaboration.

"There is an urgent need to clarify the brain processes involved in the development of Alzheimer's disease and use this information to discover effective ways to treat and prevent the disease," says Reiman. "While studies in animal, cellular and other laboratory models play essential roles in this endeavor, detailed molecular data from persons with and without Alzheimer's are needed to further inform these experimental studies and clarify the extent to which findings are relevant to this fundamentally human disease."

Reiman also serves as executive director of the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute, CEO of Banner Research and University Professor in ASU’s School of Life Sciences as well as the director of the Arizona Alzheimer’s consortium. 

The grant and resulting data will help attract future investment from the National Institutes of Health to support further expansion of the human data set. "This funding provides the foundation to build one of the largest basic and translational neuroscience programs for the fight against Alzheimer's and related neurodegenerative diseases," says Reiman.

The project will be led by Reiman, Winnie S. Liang of Translational Genomics (TGen), Thomas G. Beach of the Arizona Alzheimer's Consortium and will include Ben Readhead, a member of the NDRC team and  Joel Dudley, currently affiliated with the ASU-Banner Neurodegenerative Disease Research Center and Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai.

The important new funding source will help accelerate ASU’s research efforts to apply Big Data and bioinformatics strategies in order to grapple with an avalanche of new information concerning the causes of Alzheimer’s, as well as to explore the most fruitful avenues for Alzheimer’s therapy.

The NDRC hopes to use the resulting data to further investigate the molecular processes involved in various aspects of Alzheimer’s pathology, including the early drivers of Alzheimer’s development in the brain.

The project provides a foundation for what will be a defining feature of the NDRC, fostering the dynamic interplay of experimental studies in animal and cellular models and new data describing regions of the human brain that are preferentially affected by Alzheimer’s.

The resulting information repository will provide a unique public resource for the global community of Alzheimer’s researchers.  Indeed, the partners predict that the data set resulting from this project will become one of the most widely used and highly valued scientific resources in the fight against Alzheimer's disease.

The grant funding comes from the NOMIS Foundation, a private Swiss organization supporting insight-driven scientific endeavors across all disciplines. Established in 2008 in Zurich, the NOMIS Foundation seeks to "create a spark" in the world of science by funding highly innovative, groundbreaking research in the natural sciences, social sciences and the humanities.

In this four-year project, funds will be used to develop a public resource of detailed gene expression data from human brain cells and regions that differ in the vulnerability or resilience to Alzheimer's disease, and help to galvanize discovery of disease mechanisms, risk factors and treatments.

The project will capitalize on high-quality brain tissue from 100 brain donors with and without Alzheimer's. The brain samples are made available through the Banner Sun Health Research Institute's Brain and Body Donation Program, a world-leading resource of data and brain samples for the fight against Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and other cognitive changes associated with normal aging.

Researchers at Arizona State University will capitalize on emerging data analysis tools to interrogate and make sense of these large data sets, discover those molecular networks that seem to be involved in vulnerability or resilience to different forms of Alzheimer's pathology, and identify molecular targets at which to aim new treatments.

The ASU-Banner Neurodegenerative Disease Research Center will then capitalize on the push-pull relationship between this potentially transformational data set, other human data sets, and experimental studies in mouse, cellular and other laboratory models at ASU to discover new Alzheimer's disease mechanisms and treatments.

About ASU-Banner Neurodegenerative Disease Research Center
A partnership of Arizona State University and Banner Health, the ASU-Banner Neurodegenerative Disease Research Center at the Biodesign Institute is a research alliance to advance the scientific study, treatment and prevention of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and other neurodegenerative diseases. Expected to become one of the world's largest basic science centers for the study of Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases and attract the top minds in these fields, the Center is an extension of the partners' work with the Arizona Alzheimer's Consortium, a leading model of statewide collaboration in biomedical research. For more information, visit https://www.biodesign.asu.edu/neurodegenerative-disease.

Media Contact: Richard Harth

Senior Science Writer: Biodesign Institute

richard.harth@asu.edu

About Banner Alzheimer's Institute and Foundation

Established in 2006 by Banner Health, one of the country's largest nonprofit health care systems, the Banner Alzheimer's Institute has a three-fold focus: to conduct revolutionary studies in the detection, treatment and prevention of Alzheimer's; to set a national standard of patient and family care; and to forge scientific collaborations that bring together institutions and disciplines internationally. Banner Alzheimer's Foundation secures and stewards charitable gifts to advance this mission. For more information, visit www.banneralz.org.
 

About Banner Sun Health Research Institute

Since 1986, Banner Sun Health Research Institute, part of nonprofit Banner Health, has been a leader nationally and internationally in the effort to find answers to disorders of aging including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. The institute, together with its Arizona Alzheimer's Consortium partners, has been designated by the National Institutes of Health as one of just 29 Alzheimer's Disease Centers in the nation. The institute's Cleo Roberts Center for Clinical Research takes laboratory discoveries to clinical trials that foster hope for new treatments. Banner Health is Arizona's leading health care provider and second largest private employer. For more information, visit www.bannershri.org.
 

About TGen
Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) is a Phoenix, Arizona-based non-profit organization dedicated to conducting groundbreaking research with life changing results. TGen is focused on helping patients with neurological disorders, cancer, diabetes, and infectious diseases, through cutting edge translational research (the process of rapidly moving research towards patient benefit).  TGen physicians and scientists work to unravel the genetic components of both common and rare complex diseases in adults and children. Working with collaborators in the scientific and medical communities literally worldwide, TGen makes a substantial contribution to help our patients through efficiency and effectiveness of the translational process. TGen is allied with City of Hope, a world-renowned independent research and cancer and diabetes treatment center: www.cityofhope.org. This precision medicine alliance enables both institutes to complement each other in research and patient care, with City of Hope providing a significant clinical setting to advance scientific discoveries made by TGen. For more information, visit: www.tgen.org. Follow TGen on FacebookLinkedIn and Twitter @TGen.

Media Contact:
Steve Yozwiak
TGen Senior Science Writer
602-343-8704
syozwiak@tgen.org

About Arizona Alzheimer's Consortium
The Arizona Alzheimer's Consortium is the nation's leading model of statewide collaboration in Alzheimer's disease research. Established in 1998, the Consortium capitalizes on its participating institutions' complementary strengths in brain imaging computer science, genomics, the basic and cognitive neurosciences and clinical and neuropathology research to promote the scientific understanding and early detection of Alzheimer's disease and find effective disease-stopping and prevention therapies. It also seeks to educate Arizona residents about Alzheimer's disease, research progress in the state and the resources needed to help patients, families and professionals manage the disease. The Consortium is determined to find effective treatments to halt the progression and prevent the onset of Alzheimer's disease in the next 12 years. For more information, visit http://azalz.org/.

 

Written by: richard harth