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SOM Stimulus Information

Aging

Identifying Brain Changes Before Neurodegenerative Symptoms Appear

The Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), a multi-center study, has received $24 million in stimulus funds to further groundbreaking research to establish neuroimaging and biomarker measures of AD. Most recently Penn Medicine researchers, led by Les Shaw, PhD, co-director of the Penn ADNI Biomarker Core, developed a test capable of confirming or ruling out Alzheimer's disease. By measuring cerebrospinal fluid concentrations of two of the disease's biochemical hallmarks - amyloid beta42 peptide and tau protein - the test also predicted whether a person's mild cognitive impairment would convert to Alzheimer's disease over time. The Penn portion of this national stimulus grant provides for the retention of at least two employees and permits further assessments of these biomarkers at earlier stages of mild cognitive impairment.

The stimulus funds will enable researchers--and ultimately practicing physicians--to track changes in the living brain as older people transition from normal cognitive aging to amnestic mild cognitive impairment, in which individuals have a memory deficit but generally retain other cognitive abilities, and from MCI to Alzheimer's disease. ADNI, a research partnership supported primarily by the National Institute on Aging, with private sector support through the Foundation for NIH, seeks to find neuroimaging and other biological markers that can be used to detect Alzheimer's disease progression and measure the effectiveness of potential therapies.

The original ADNI involved the study of 800 people who ranged from normal to those with late-stage MCI or overt Alzheimer's disease. This new grant expands the scope of ongoing research under ADNI by allowing for the enrollment of participants at an earlier stage of MCI, when symptoms are milder. Furthermore, the funding for this new grant will allow ADNI investigators to extend the length of the original study to better assess changes in individuals over time. All of the participants will have neuroimaging scans and blood and cerebrospinal fluid analyses to look for changes in the brain.

Identifying Genes Affecting Risk for Late-Onset Alzheimer's Disease

A stimulus grant of more than $5.4 million will add 3,800 Alzheimer's patients and an equal number of people free of the disease to a previously funded study by the Alzheimer' Disease Genetics Consortium (ADGC). Gerard Schellenberg, PhD, Professor of Pathology and Lab Medicine, leads the consortium, which aims to identify additional risk factor genes for late-onset Alzheimer's disease. All of the study participants are currently enrolled with the National Institute on Aging (NIA)-funded national network of 29 Alzheimer's Disease Centers. When added to samples from other sources, this will make available one of the largest collections of samples to perform genome-wide association studies (GWAS) in an effort to identify the susceptibility and protective genes influencing the onset and progression of late-onset AD. The large number of DNA samples brought together in this study may enable the researchers to detect genes whose individual effects in the disorder may be small but may still play a role. This grant will add four new jobs at Penn and seven new jobs across the nation.

The ADGC will use research infrastructures previously established by NIA to store and make available to qualified researchers DNA samples, datasets containing a wealth of information about participants, and genetic analysis data. The combined resources will also allow scientists to search for genes associated with a number of traits associated with Alzheimer's, as well as for genes related to cognitive decline.

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