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September 24, 2001

Emory receives $5.7M for alternative medicine center

By Janet Christenberry


With the help of $5.7 million from the National Institutes of Health, a new center specifically designed to investigate complementary and alternative treatments in neurodegenerative diseases is under way at Emory.

The Center for Research on Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) in Neuro-degenerative Diseases will study promising interventions that complement traditional medical approaches. The NIH grants, awarded through the National Center for Complementary
and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), include a five-year grant for the center and three individual research grants.

“Emory has been selected as one of 15 CAM centers in the United States,” said Mahlon DeLong, the center’s principal investigator and chair of neurology. “Our center focuses on neurodegenerative disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.”

The goal of the center is to provide the resources necessary for the rigorous scientific investigation of CAM in order to examine the potential efficacy, effectiveness, safety and validity of alternative practices, as well as the psychological or physiological mechanisms underlying these practices.

According to a 1998 Stanford University National Survey, 69 percent of Americans have turned to alternative therapies to treat a variety of health problems. In addition, Ameri-cans spent more than $27 billion on these therapies in 1997, exceeding out-of-pocket spending for all U.S. hospitalizations, according to NCCAM.

“Unfortunately, little has been done to determine whether these alternative approaches really work,” DeLong said.

The center currently encompasses three studies or individual research projects. These studies include the use of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation to relieve depression associated with Parkinson’s disease; the use of Valerian root to treat sleep disturbances in Parkinson’s disease; and the effect of the Chinese mind-body modalities of Tai Chi and Qi Gong on motor disabilities associated with Parkinson’s disease.

The repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation study is already under way, and the other two studies should begin in the coming months.

Charles Epstein, associate professor of neurology, heads the magnetic stimulation study, with DeLong as co-principal investigator. Donald Bliwise, associate professor of neurology, is the principal investigator of the Valerian root and sleep study, with David Rye, associate professor of neurology, and Michael Decker, instructor in neurology, as the co-principal investigators.

Associate Professor Jorge Juncos in neurology leads the Chinese exercise modalities trials, with Steven Wolf, professor of rehabilitation medicine, as co-principal investigator. Wolf also serves as co-director for the center.

“Complementary and alternative medicine covers a broad range of healing philosophies, approaches and therapies,” Wolf said. “We’re finding that more and more patients are seeking this type of treatment. We’re also finding more and more doctors are recommending alternative therapies to their patients.”

In fact, as indicated in a recent survey of 3,200 physicians conducted by Health Products Research Inc., 50 percent of the physicians surveyed expected to begin using or to increase their use of homeopathic and holistic treatments within the next year.

“CAM treatments may be used alone as an alternative to conventional therapies,” DeLong said. “They can also be used to supplement conventional, mainstream therapies in what is referred to as a complementary or an integrative approach.”

The center’s interdisciplinary team includes personnel and resources at the School of Medicine, the School of Public Health and the Center for Human Movement Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

For more information on CAM, call administrator Rebecca Portman at 404-727-3251. The center has postdoctoral fellowships available, as well as funding for pilot/feasibility studies, for those interested in CAM regarding neurodegenerative disease.


Back to Emory Report September 24, 2001