May 20, 2003
$6.8 Million Grant Funds Alzheimer’s Study
CHICAGO— Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine has received a $6.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to unravel the molecular triggers that cause overactivation of glia brain cells that leads to neurodegeneration in Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, and other diseases.
Glia are important cells of the central nervous system that normally help the body mount a response to injury or developmental change but which are chronically activated in certain neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, or after traumatic brain injury or stroke.
“Knowledge about glia-neuron interactions will provide insight into signaling pathways to provide new drug discovery targets for Alzheimer’s disease and other critical neurodegenerative events,” said Linda Van Eldik, PhD, professor of cell and molecular biology at the Feinberg School and principal investigator of the program project grant.
Dr. Van Eldik explained that although the overactivation of glia seen in Alzheimer’s disease is believed to play a critical role in the development and progression of neurodegeneration, the molecular mechanisms underlying the process have received little attention.
She and her colleagues believe the four projects in this grant will provide insight into fundamental cell biology changes that might be amenable to modulation by a small molecule compound, such as a drug, and provide a foundation for future research to develop experimental drugs to inhibit disease progression.
Van Eldik will collaborate on one of the projects with D. Martin Watterson, PhD, J.G. Searle Professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, professor of molecular pharmacology and biological chemistry at the Feinberg School and director of the Northwestern University Drug Discovery Training Program. Other medical school researchers include Lester (Skip) Binder, PhD, professor of cell and molecular biology; Mary Jo LaDu, PhD, associate professor of medicine and senior scientist at Evanston Northwestern Healthcare Research Institute; Robert J. Vassar, PhD, associate professor of cell and molecular biology; Robert Berry, PhD, professor of cell and molecular biology; and Alfred W. Rademaker, PhD, professor of preventive medicine.
The Northwestern Drug Discovery Program also recently received two training grants from the NIH. The first was a competitive renewal for five years of a National Institute on Aging-funded predoctoral/postdoctoral training grant, Drug Discovery for Age-related Disorders. The second grant, from the National Institute for General Medical Sciences, will fund five undergraduates from quantitative backgrounds to pursue summer research. The program is called DARE, for Drug Discovery Academic Research Experience.