"Since its inception in October of 1991, the Emory ADC has fulfilled its initial goal of supporting and stimulating Alzheimer's disease research at Emory," said ADC principal Investigator and Director Suzanne S. Mirra, professor of pathology at the School of Medicine. "The extraordinary growth of the basic and clinical neuroscience community at Emory has only increased the need for the core support provided by the center."
The impact of the ADC on the scientific community and the community-at-large has been substantial and varied. Activities of the center include connecting every second-year Emory medical student with the family of an individual with Alzheimer's disease, looking for Alzheimer's genes, maintaining an active "brain bank" of tissue available for study, presenting puppet shows on the condition to children, studying the effects of estrogen on Alzheimer's disease progression, and recruiting junior investigators to the field through pilot project grants.
A significant contribution of the ADC to the field of Alzheimer's disease research has been its emphasis on the investigation and treatment of the disease in African-Americans. Emory neurologists evaluate and treat patients at an urban satellite clinic; pathologists characterize brain tissue from older African Americans with and without Alzheimer's disease; ADC staff provide multicultural symposia on Alzheimer's disease to the public; and they have organized an annual high school career day emphasizing exposure of minority students to career opportunities in the Alzheimer's disease field.
"Representation of minority patients increased from 6 percent to 29 percent over the past four years as a result of recruitment of African American subjects through our Satellite Clinic," Mirra said. "The high proportion of African Americans seen through the Clinical Core, paralleling that of our regional population, will enable us to obtain much needed information on dementia in this understudied group."
Two additional research themes have emerged from the ADC; one focuses on common threads among movement disorders such as Parkinson's disease and dementias such as Alzheimer's; the other evaluates the mitochondrial genetics of these disorders.
"In a setting of quality patient care, family support and education, the Clinical Core will provide (to investigators) information on well characterized groups of Alzheimer's disease patients, Parkinson's disease patients with and without dementia, and normal individuals free of cognitive and motor impairment," said ADC Associate Director Mahlon DeLong, chair of Neurology at Emory and an international expert on movement disorders.
The Molecular Biology core will assess mtDNA (mitochondrial DNA) abnormalities associated with Alzheimer's disease and aging, and will screen for mutations known to be associated with early-onset familial and late-onset Alzheimer's disease.
-- Lorri Preston