September 30, 2010

$6.6M grant creates Emory center to study Parkinson's disease

Emory will receive more than $1 million each year for the next five years to support a Morris K. Udall Center of Excellence in Parkinson’s Disease Research.  

The goal of Emory Udall Center will be to develop more effective Parkinson’s disease (PD) treatments that have fewer side effects.  

The center will focus on accelerating progress by deepening researchers’ understanding of the pathophysiology of the disease.  

The emphasis will be on integrating cutting-edge collaborative research, expert training of researchers and clinicians, and open dialogue with the general public.

PD, a complex neurodegenerative disorder, affects more than 1 million people in the United States and is the second-most prevalent neurodegenerative disorder after Alzheimer’s disease.  

PD is characterized by gradually progressive symptoms, such as tremor, slowness of movement, rigidity, impaired balance and nervous system problems, and cognitive decline.

Thomas Wichmann, professor of neurology at Emory and a researcher at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, is the principal investigator of the center.

Currently, more than 45 basic science and clinical faculty members at Emory study PD. Their expertise ranges from anatomy and electrophysiology to pharmacology and toxicology.

The grant, from the National Institutes of Health, will facilitate closer interactions among these researchers as well as colleagues at Vanderbilt University.

The Emory center will be part of the larger network of Udall Parkinson’s Disease Research Centers.

“The Emory Udall Center is designed with Parkinson’s disease patients in mind so we can broaden and optimize treatment options,” says Wichmann. “Working together within Emory and with colleagues across the country, we’re certain we can accelerate progress."

The Emory Udall Center’s four main projects will be led by Emory researchers Wichmann, Dieter Jaeger and Gary Miller; and Vanderbilt researcher P. Jeffrey Conn.

The center will organize research seminars and meetings, provide hands-on lab training, maintain a Web site and facilitate other activities.

In addition, the center’s goal will be to educate the public and patients about PD research.

Center staff will coordinate public outreach via a Community Outreach Board that includes patients with PD, their caregivers and others.  
Activities will be coordinated with the Atlanta chapter of the American Parkinson’s Disease Association, which is organized through Emory’s Movement Disorders program and the Atlanta Clinical and Translational Science Institute.

The Yerkes National Primate Research Center, the Movement Disorders program and ACTSI, as well as Emory College and Rollins School of Public Health, are providing additional funding for the Emory Udall Center to support a visiting speaker series, travel for trainees and a pilot research program.

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