CAF awards grant to UTHealth & UH for innovative research on imaging-based diagnostic and treatment

Posted: Jun. 2, 2010

Boston - (June 2, 2010) – Cure Alzheimer’s Fund recently awarded the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) and the University of Houston a $150,000 grant to fund innovative research on Alzheimer’s disease, which currently affects 5.3 million Americans and their families and is the most common cause of dementia in the elderly.

Tim Armour, president and CEO of Cure Alzheimer’s Fund (CAF) applauded the project and noted its novel approach to the diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. “The pioneering research being done at UTHealth and UH on Alzheimer’s disease is helping to better understand this devastating disease and could lead to better ways to reverse its effects and even find a cure,” he said.

The grant will allow UTHealth and UH researchers to accelerate their use of nanotechnology and new imaging techniques to study the effects of certain compounds of Amyloid-Beta, a protein that is commonly linked to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, on the brain. Most importantly the scientists will focus on the creation of new intravenous delivery mechanisms for compounds such as gamma secretase modulators, which are believed to have the potential to protect against the development of the debilitating disease.

“We’re developing nanocarriers designed to deliver therapeutic and imaging agents directly to the amyloid lesions,” said Ananth Annapragada, Ph.D., a lead researcher on the pre-clinical project and the Robert H. Graham Professor of Entrepreneurial Biomedical Informatics and Bioengineering at The University of Texas School of Health Information Sciences at Houston (SHIS), a part of UTHealth. “The imaging agents allow us to peek at the diseased area and the therapeutic agents allow us to treat it. Thus the nickname Peek and Treat.”

If the drug delivery system proceeds to clinical trials and proves effective, it could provide enhanced imaging in patients using Magnetic Resonance Imaging at a resolution far exceeding current capabilities. It also could be used for the targeted delivery of a variety of therapeutic agents, according to the other lead researcher, Jason Eriksen, Ph.D., an assistant professor of pharmacology at UH. “These nanocarriers allow us to deliver a nearly unlimited variety of compounds to the brain. Since we can perform high-resolution imaging of Amyloid-Beta with this technology, we will be able to determine if a drug treatment effectively hits its target, early on in the disease process.”

Armour added, “Finding a cure and better treatments for Alzheimer’s can only be achieved by gaining a better understanding of the disease. Research is where it must start, and Cure Alzheimer’s Fund remains committed to funding researchers like those at UTHealth and UH who are doing groundbreaking work that could bring us one step closer to our goal to finding a cure.”

The UTHealth research team includes Eric Ambe Tanifum, Ph.D., and Indrani Dasgupta, Ph.D., who are both postdoctoral fellows at the UT School of Health Information Sciences at Houston.

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Cure Alzheimer's FundTM is a public charity established to provide funding for targeted research into the causes of Alzheimer’s disease. Cure Alzheimer’s Fund supports and funds research with the highest probability of slowing, stopping or reversing Alzheimer’s disease by 2016. Since its inception in 2004, Cure Alzheimer’s Fund has raised more than $15 million, investing all of it directly into research. For more information please visit http://www.curealzfund.org