New NIH funding expands genetics research resources at IU Alzheimer Disease Center

  • Feb. 26, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana Alzheimer Disease Center has significantly boosted its resources for treating and researching the genetic underpinnings of Alzheimer's disease with an additional grant of $300,000 per year from the National Institutes of Health.

The center, one of just 29 NIH-designated Alzheimer's centers in the country, will use the funding to add a genetics, biomarker and bioinformatics core to its existing cores focusing on patient care, education, neuroimaging, pathology and other center activities.

The center's work on the genetics of the disease has traditionally focused on families with a history of inherited Alzheimer's disease, such as the early-onset form that can appear in people in their 40s and 50s.

The new funding will expand the center's work on the genetics of Alzheimer's that affects older people, as well as efforts to identify clues -- biomarkers -- that could predict which people are more likely to develop the disease.

"We are interested in the genetics of people who have what we call mild cognitive impairment, which may or may not develop into Alzheimer's," said Tatiana Foroud, Ph.D, P. Michael Conneally Professor of Medical and Molecular Genetics and director of the new core.

The funding will enable the center to collect more types of specimens, in addition to blood samples, from research participants, Dr. Foroud said. The additional samples will include cerebrospinal fluid, which, she noted, can provide different and often better information than blood samples because "you're getting something that's much closer to what's going on in the brain."

The funding will also support more resources in bioinformatics, the blend of computing, mathematics and statistics that enables scientists to analyze the vast amount of data generated by modern biomedical research at the molecular level.

The grant, along with the resources and research it will enable, should also put the center on firmer footing when it seeks to have its overall center funding renewed, especially if the resources of the National Institutes of Health continue to be tight, Dr. Foroud said.

The NIH renewed funding to the center for a fifth consecutive five-year term in 2011, awarding the center its largest grant yet of $9.1 million. The center's funding will be up for renewal in 2016.

Director of the Indiana Alzheimer Center is Andrew Saykin, Psy.D., Raymond C. Beeler Professor of Radiology at the IU School of Medicine, who succeeded founding Director Bernardino Ghetti, M.D., Distinguished Professor, in 2013.

Tatiana Foroud, Ph.D.

Tatiana Foroud, Ph.D.

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Eric Schoch