AFA awards grant to Stony Brook Medicine to improve drug development for Alzheimer's disease

The Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA) is awarding $206,184 over the next three years to Stony Brook Medicine to support an innovative Positron Emission Tomography (PET) imaging research project that will compare neurons from healthy controls and those with Alzheimer's disease in an effort to improve drug development. By gaining a better understanding of exactly how these neurons are damaged by Alzheimer's, the team hopes to improve therapeutic strategies that can more effectively target and treat the damage and return these neurons to a normal state to help improve memory loss.

"New and innovative research is vital to advance the field and find the meaningful progress millions of families affected by Alzheimer's disease are waiting for. AFA is doing everything it can to support the scientists who are working to achieve that goal," said Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr., AFA's President & CEO. "Stony Brook University is one of the region's leading research institutions. This research initiative has the potential to further the critically needed development of more effective medications and deepen our understanding of Alzheimer's. We are very pleased to support this important work."

"Today's partnership with the Alzheimer's Foundation of America marks the beginning of a collaboration between our two institutions, and it underscores our long-standing commitment to fostering scientific discovery and looking at ways new therapies can be developed," said Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. "We are grateful to the Alzheimer's Foundation of America for seeing the value in Dr. DeLorenzo's research and for providing the generous funding that will make it possible."

Alzheimer's disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, and the only one in the top 10 without a cure or reversible treatment. Currently, more than 400,000 New Yorkers, including 50,000 Long Islanders, are living with Alzheimer's.

The most commonly used drugs to improve memory in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's target a set of neurons critical for memory called cholinergic neurons. Loss of cholinergic function is a hallmark of cognitive decline. But these medications, which target the cholinergic system and are known as cholinesterase inhibitors, have only a modest effect.

"The type of innovative, translational research study that Dr. Christine DeLorenzo and her Co-PIs proposed has the potential to lead to the development of effective medications that specifically target the damaged areas of the brain," said Kenneth Kaushansky, MD, Senior Vice President for the Health Sciences and Dean of the Stony Brook University School of Medicine. "Through this collaboration with the Alzheimer's Foundation of America, Stony Brook will bring new insights into the origins of Alzheimer's, which we will translate into advanced diagnostics, treatments and prognoses for our patients."

Stony Brook's research team aims to improve the efficacy of these drugs by increasing understanding of the structure and function of cholinergic neurons in health and how they are damaged in Alzheimer's disease.

The research team is led by Christine DeLorenzo, PhD, Director of Stony Brook's Center for Understanding Biology Using Imaging Technology (CUBIT) and comprised of colleagues from Stony Brook University's School of Medicine. Dr. DeLorenzo's co-investigators include: Ramin Parsey MD, PhD; Lorna Role, PhD; David Talmage, PhD; Nikhil Palekar, MD; and Mala Ananth.

"Through this generous funding from the Alzheimer's Foundation of America, we will take advantage of state-of-the-art techniques available at Stony Brook University and Stony Brook Medicine," said Christine DeLorenzo, PhD, Primary Investigator of the study and Director of Stony Brook's Center for Understanding Biology Using Imaging Technology (CUBIT). "The result of this study will be the most comprehensive investigation of the cholinergic brain system to date, and our study stands to advance both the fields of neuroscience and neuroimaging."

Stony Brook Medicine is a leader in the region for its effort toward combating Alzheimer's disease for more than three decades with its Stony Brook Neurosciences Institute, through basic, translational and clinical research, diagnosis and treatment, as well as education. In addition, highlights of the commitment are demonstrated with the activities and programs of the Center of Excellence for Alzheimer's Disease, one of only 10 centers supported in part by a grant from the New York State Department of Health, serving Suffolk and Nassau counties. This new disease research funded project will extensively push forward the frontiers of biomedical research on Alzheimer's in the emerging field of neurotherapeutics and focus on bettering the health and wellness of those facing the devastating loss of their memory and other important mental functions.

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