NIH Gives Emory University $5.4 Million to Support Work at Udall Parkinson’s Disease Research Center

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by Ana de Barros, PhD |

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The National Institutes for Health (NIH) will grant Emory University more $1 million annually for the next five years to renew its support for Emory’s Morris K. Udall Center of Excellence in Parkinson’s Disease Research, aiming to fund the development of more effective Parkinson’s disease treatments that have fewer side effects.

To achieve that goal, the Emory Udall Center will integrate cutting-edge collaborative research, expert training of its research and clinical staff, and open dialogue with the general public.

Thomas Wichmann, MD, a researcher at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center and the principal investigator at the Emory Udall Center, will join project and core investigators, Dieter Jaeger, PhD, Yoland Smith, PhD, and Adriana Galvan, PhD, to focus on developing a deeper understanding of brain circuit abnormalities that contribute to Parkinsonism, using a robust program of rodent and primate clinical studies.

Jaeger, professor of biology, will investigate how altered basal ganglia activity in Parkinson’s influences thalamic and cortical activity patterns in rodents (Project 1).

Wichmann, professor of neurology, will examine Parkinsonism-associated changes in thalamocortical and corticothalamic interactions in non-human primates (Project 2).

Smith, professor of neurology, will study Parkinsonism-related anatomical changes in the basal ganglia, thalamus and cortex using electron microscopy methods in rodents and monkeys (Project 3).

According to an Emory press release, the center also will foster collaborations between its researchers and other faculty members who study distinct aspects of Parkinson’s, with expertise areas ranging from anatomy to toxicology.

Regarding educational efforts, the center will continue to teach young scholars to carry out impactful Parkinson’s-related science, as well as organizing other activities aiming to engage the public and Parkinson’s disease patients.

The Emory Udall Center is part of a comprehensive network of Udall Parkinson’s Disease Research Centers funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), which will facilitate collaborative research with external investigators.

Morris K. Udall Centers of Excellence for Parkinson’s Disease Research were developed in honor of former Congressman Morris K. Udall, who passed away in 1998, after a long battle with Parkinson’s. Udall was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1979, however, he remained active in Congress until his retirement in May 1991.

In 1997, NINDS requested to establish the first Morris K. Udall Centers of Excellence in Parkinson’s Disease Research, using a multidisciplinary research approach to unveil the fundamental causes of this neurodegenerative disease, as well as to improve diagnosis and treatment.

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