Friday, 15 October 2010 00:00
The National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) announced that The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research has been endowed as one of the Morris K. Udall Centers of Excellence in Parkinson’s Disease Research. The federal initiative to select research institutes dedicated to the study of Parkinson’s and create a Center of Excellence was started to advance cutting-edge research on this movement disorder, which affects at least 500,000 in the US, according to NINDS estimates. The addition of two new centers—the Feinstein Institute and Emory University in Atlanta—adds new dimensions to the nine other centers that have been selected since the program began in 1997. The NINDS grants will provide a five-year investment totaling more than $16 million for both research institutes.
David Eidelberg, MD, a pioneer in brain imaging in Parkinson’s, directs the Feinstein Institute’s Susan and Leonard Feinstein Center for Neurosciences in Manhasset. Dr. Eidelberg and his colleagues have spent decades using imaging to capture the diseased brain. The images have allowed them to identify discrete large-scale networks damaged in the disease process. By developing a non-invasive method to measure the activity of abnormal networks in brain images from living patients, Dr. Eidelberg’s approach had led to new insights into the natural history of Parkinson’s disease and its treatment.
“This award recognizes the significant contribution made over the years in the use of advanced functional imaging technology to further the understanding of Parkinson’s disease,” said Dr. Eidelberg. “As part of the Udall Center, scientists at the Feinstein Institute will continue to utilize novel imaging techniques and computational approaches to better understand the impact of treatment on brain organization. This knowledge will create the basis for more effective therapies for patients with this debilitating neurological disorder.”
As part of the mission of the Udall Centers, the investigators at the 11 institutions will share their expertise in an effort to speed the development of new treatments to stop, slow or prevent Parkinson’s disease.
NINDS Director Story Landis, Ph.D., made the announcement of the awards today at the World Parkinson Congress in Glasgow, Scotland. The congress is an international forum where scientists, health care providers, physicians, patients, family and caregivers meet to share the latest developments in Parkinson’s disease.
“For more than a decade, the Udall Centers of Excellence have represented our commitment to bring together the talent and effort of the foremost investigators advancing research in Parkinson’s disease,” said Dr. Landis. “I look forward to these new centers partnering with us to accelerate basic, translational and clinical research to find a cure for this devastating illness.”
The research institutes awarded Udall Center grants have a wide range of expertise in Parkinson’s research. While the Feinstein specializes in imaging and identifying the brain networks damaged in patients and progressively worsening throughout the disease process, other centers focus on genetic and genomic studies, work to improve animal models, the development and testing of potential medicines and clinical research with Parkinson’s disease patients. The Feinstein team also will continue to work with patients who suffer serious clinical side effects from levodopa and scan their brains throughout the disease course to examine individual differences in the cognitive response to treatment. They are also developing a novel imaging method that will allow them to identify damaged brain circuits at the earliest stage of the disease. This may ultimately help to better diagnose Parkinson’s as well as developing treatments that specifically target these brain circuit changes. The NINDS launched the program in 1997. The Udall Centers are named in honor of U.S. Rep. Morris K. Udall (D-Ariz.) He died in 1998 after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.
The neurodegenerative disorder attacks a specific set of dopaminergic neurons in areas of the brain that control movement and cognition. There are treatments that deliver dopamine to these hard-hit areas and help with the movement-related symptoms—tremor, stiffness, slow gait—but there are no treatments that slow the underlying disease process.