The IU School of Medicine’s Stark Neurosciences Research Institute recently received three new National Institute on Aging grants, totaling almost $8.7 million, to investigate possible causes of and treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.
Bruce Lamb, executive director of the institute, said the new funding is part of a national push to develop a cure for Alzheimer’s and related dementias. Lamb said there’s an urgent need for this research today as the U.S population’s median age increases, making more people at risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
“It's a terrible, terrible disease,” Lamb said. “We have to find a solution to this. About 5-and-a-half to 6 million people in the U.S. have Alzheimer's today, but by 2050, I think that's going to almost triple unless we do something to change that.”
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Anita Gartland, who serves on the Indiana Alzheimer's Disease Research Center’s Community Advisory Board, is one of a growing number of people who has personally witnessed the effects of Alzheimer’s. The center is a hub for Alzheimer’s research at IU that collaborates closely with the Stark Neurosciences Research Institute.
Gartland said she spent more than a decade caregiving for both of her parents who eventually died with Alzheimer’s disease.
“When my mother got into the more advanced stage, my father started to show some cognitive problems just like Mom, so at that point I was caregiving for both of them,” Gartland said.
Gartland said she enrolled her father in an Alzheimer’s clinical study at the IU School of Medicine in the early 2000s. The study helped prolong his life by one to two years, she said.
Almost two decades after Gartland’s father’s study, Lamb said IU’s Alzheimer’s research has significantly grown. In the past few years, he said the Stark Neurosciences Research Institute has recruited leading national talent in Alzheimer’s research.
These researchers draw in research funding like the three new National Institute on Aging grants, he said. For one of the projects launched in September, Lamb said researchers are investigating a protein found in brain cells associated with Alzheimer’s in the hopes of developing a new drug treatment.
“I'm hopeful that Indiana may be part of the solution,” he said. “That we will have done things to make new findings, push things forward in research. Then, I think we will contribute to finally having something to really, significantly help people more than we've had before.”
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Indiana Alzheimer's Disease Research Center Director Andrew Saykin said the center is one of only 32 centers in the U.S. dedicated to Alzheimer’s research. The center, funded by the National Institute on Aging, received $15 million in September to renew its funding for another five years.
“It's an important and really exciting time in a field with tremendous momentum,” Saykin said. “There's a great need for the next generation of researchers to really pursue this.”
After her experience participating in IU School of Medicine Alzheimer’s research, Gartland said she has faith IU researchers will be part of a solution.
“They have the top technology, the top doctors in the world, the top everything,” she said. “I have no doubt that they are going to be the leaders in finding the cure.”