Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center

NIA adds 2 ADCs to research network

July 1, 2005

The National Institute on Aging (NIA) is pleased to announce the addition of two Alzheimer’s Disease Centers (ADCs) serving the southeastern U.S.: the University of South Florida (USF), headquartered in Tampa, and Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. More than 10 percent of the Nation’s AD patients—an estimated 600,000—live in these two States. Emory University was fully funded as an ADC from 1991 until 2000 and has been an Affiliate Center under the NIA program since 2000. USF’s staff and facilities are new to the NIA research network.

The NIA has worked with local scientists and officials in the southeastern U.S. for some time to expand the ADC network. “Not only are we now able to extend much-needed diagnostic, treatment, and education services to a wider geographic area, but we are looking forward to expanding the AD research portfolio with several exciting projects,” commented Creighton (Tony) Phelps, Ph.D., Program Director, Alzheimer’s Disease Centers, Neurobiology and Neuropsychology of Aging (NNA) Program at the NIA. Florida’s population centers—Tampa and Miami—will have access to new services under the USF umbrella, and the new ADC will work closely with the State’s 13 Memory Clinics. Based in Atlanta, Emory University will continue expanding its services to Georgia’s AD patients and caregivers.

“We are very excited to welcome these two institutions into NIA’s national research network. Each team has produced exceptional basic science research, and each is proposing several intriguing projects that will add much to our growing body of knowledge about AD,” says Richard J. Hodes, M.D., Director, NIA.

The USF ADC will be led by Huntington Potter, Ph.D. The ADC at Emory will be led by Allan Levey, M.D., Ph.D. Teams of researchers at each institution will examine mild cognitive impairment (MCI) from different scientific perspectives and approaches. At USF, investigators seek to understand the process of transition from normal aging to MCI to AD by determining which combinations of clinical, epidemiologic, imaging, neuropsychological, and biological markers best identify individuals who will experience a rapid rate of cognitive decline. Researchers hypothesize that there is a strong positive correlation between the amount of certain biomarkers and risk factors and the rapid cognitive decline that can be found in preclinical AD patients.

At Emory, one of the ways that ADC staff will explore MCI is by differentiating MCI subgroups through sensitive memory tasks developed in non-human primates at the University’s Yerkes National Primate Research Center. The Yerkes Center is dedicated to biomedical and behavioral research with nonhuman primates, including 3,000 monkeys and apes representing eight species, plus about 2,500 rodents. The Center conducts research on human health disorders such as AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, drug addiction, cardiovascular disease, infantile blindness, and adult visual deficits, as well as AD.

“The more we understand the underlying mechanisms of MCI, the better we will be able to understand how and when the disease process begins. Gaining insight into the transformation from healthy aging to MCI and conversion from MCI to AD is crucial to our overall dementia research program,” said Marcelle Morrison-Bogorad, Ph.D., Director, NNA program.

University of South Florida

Florida is the fourth largest State in the country in terms of population and the second largest in total number of Alzheimer’s disease patients. There are an estimated 430,000 AD patients in Florida, and, as is true across the U.S., the aging population is ethnically diverse and growing rapidly.

In 2002, the Florida Legislature established the Johnnie B. Byrd Sr. Alzheimer’s Center and Research Institute on the campus of USF, as a private, non-profit, State-wide institute “dedicated to the cure and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.” The Byrd Institute will partner with USF by providing additional expertise and State financial support to the Florida ADC. Headquartered in Tampa, USF will direct two clinical research centers, one in Miami and one in Tampa. In addition, neuropathology services will be provided through the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, and the ADC will work with the Suncoast Gerontology Center in Tampa to provide education services. Additional diagnosis and treatment services will be provided at the Wien Center at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami. USF will also be working closely with a number of local chapters of the Alzheimer’s Association, and the Caregiver Assistance Program, funded by the State of Florida.

Additional research will be conducted at the University of Miami, and the Wien Center has a strong interest in the early detection of dementia for both English and Spanish speakers. The Center will also be involved in the assessment of genetic and environmental risk and protective factors for dementing diseases.

One of the major missions of the Suncoast Gerontology Center is the education of patients, caregivers, physicians, and other health care professionals in the most current knowledge about AD research, diagnosis, treatment, and care. Staff at the Center are developing a network of professionals who will work with minority and underserved populations, conducting outreach programs, and producing Spanish-language material on MCI, AD, and the ADC.

“It is a great honor and responsibility to direct, together with Dr. Ranjan Duara from the University of Miami, the new NIA-designated Florida ADC. This represents the effort of many researchers from all over the State who came together to collaborate on the application. That collaboration was made possible in no small way by the people of Florida, whose representatives established the State-funded Johnnie B. Byrd Sr. Alzheimer’s Center and Research Institute. We are very proud that bringing together many institutions and investigators has led to Florida receiving its first ADC and look forward to working with other researchers across the State and the Nation to more effectively understand and attack Alzheimer’s disease, ” said Dr. Potter.

In addition to USF’s research focus on MCI, other major projects will include:

  • investigating the use of “cognitive rehabilitation” to intervene in and slow disease progression in MCI and early AD patients. Preliminary evidence indicates that such cognitive rehabilitation can slow cognitive decline in AD patients. Cognitive rehabilitation has been shown to be effective in treating a wide variety of neurological disorders including traumatic brain injury and stroke.
  • using mouse models of AD to determine which aspects of environmental enrichment (including cognitive rehabilitation) best slow or reverse cognitive impairment and might be similarly applied to human patients.

The USF ADC is also working on new therapeutic strategies to promote the repair and regeneration of diseased brains. In addition to movement disorders and AD, the Center researches PD, Huntington’s disease, ALS, stroke, and Tourette’s disorder.

Emory University

Emory University is a private teaching and research institution and was funded as an ADC from 1991 to 2000, and from 2000 until this year, was designated as an affiliate ADC. Emory operates from three principal locations: the Center for Neurodegenerative Disease (housing many research labs), the Wesley Woods Center (a geriatrics center with AD special care units), and Grady Memorial Hospital (a 1000-bed teaching hospital).

Several other specialized research facilities will coordinate research with the ADC, including the Emory Sleep Disorders Center, and the Yerkes National Primate Research Center. Allan Levey, M.D., Ph.D., ADC Director, stated, “We are delighted to be awarded one of the new ADC grants. The award builds on the spectacular growth in the neurosciences and neurodegenerative disease research at Emory over the past 10 years. The Center brings new strengths and directions in genetics, proteomics (the study of protein structure and function), and cognitive neuroscience to research and clinical care for individuals with MCI, AD, and other dementias, together with a mission to serve a large and diverse community in need.”

The Emory ADC maintains an emphasis on the overlap between cognitive and movement disorders, and has a strong outreach program to the large African-American community in urban Atlanta.

Among the special research projects underway at Emory are:

  • “Sensitive Memory Tests for Differentiating MCI Subgroups,” which will adapt novel, highly sensitive memory tasks developed in non-human primates.
  • “Crossed Genetics Risks of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson Disease” to examine significantly increased crossed familial risk of AD and PD. This research will test the association of novel candidate genes for AD and PD. Emory has formed a partnership with de CODE Genetics, a genomics company based in Iceland, which has a relatively homogenous population, to help further this research.
  • “Analysis of Proteomic Patterns in Neurodegeneration” which will apply state-of-the-art proteomics technologies to MCI, AD, and PD brains. Emory investigators believe that although AD and PD often represent distinct disorders, significant overlap occurs at genetic, clinical, and pathological levels, suggesting common molecular mechanisms.

The Emory ADC will also address dementia risk factors such as sleep, vascular co-morbidities, and multicultural issues. Researchers believe that sleep-disordered breathing may play an unappreciated role in AD, PD, and other neurodegenerative diseases. Emory’s emphasis on dementia in African-Americans will examine how racial and cultural factors influence MCI and that population’s commonly occurring co-morbidities such as hypertension, diabetes, and vascular disease.

Other research will concentrate on environmental toxins and their possible role in disease, the cell biology of presenilins and their role in membrane traffic, protein degradation, and hypoxia and oxidative stress.

Contact the ADCs:

Emory University

Allan I. Levey, M.D., Ph.D., Director
Emory Alzheimer’s Disease Center
1841 Clifton Road, NE
Atlanta, GA 30329
ADC e-mail: emoryadc@emory.edu
Website: www.med.emory.edu/
ADC Information Line: 404-728-6950
Fax: 404-728-6955

University of South Florida

Florida Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center
Huntington Potter, Ph.D., Director
Byrd Alzheimer’s Center and Research Institute
15310 Amberly Drive, Suite 320
Tampa, FL 33647
Director’s e-mail: hpotter@byrdinstitute.org
Website: http://health.usf.edu/byrd/adrc/index.htm
Director’s Tel: 813-866-1600
Director’s Fax: 813-866-1601

Page last updated: June 26, 2013