Univ. of Pittsburgh, Mass General Hospital awarded Alzheimer’s Research Grant for Innovative Collaboration on Derivatives to Treat Disease

Posted: Sep. 22, 2010

Univ. of Pittsburgh’s Dr. William Klunk & MGH’s Dr. Rudolph Tanzi to Discuss Joint Effort At World Alzheimer’s Day University of Pittsburgh Forum

Pittsburgh  – Bringing together two esteemed institutions known for groundbreaking Alzheimer’s research, Cure Alzheimer’s Fund has awarded the University of Pittsburgh a $300,000 grant and Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard (MGH) a $100,000 grant to fund an innovative joint research project on Alzheimer’s disease, which currently affects 5.3 million Americans and their families.

Jeffrey Morby, Cure Alzheimer’s Fund (CAF) Chairman and co-founder and Pittsburgh resident, praised the project and its novel approach to treatment and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. “As Chairman and co-founder with my wife Jacqui of the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund, we have looked forward to the opportunity to help bring these two prestigious institutions together for this great cause,” said Morby, who will announce the grant at a University of Pittsburgh World Alzheimer’s Day Forum. “This pioneering collaborative research on Alzheimer’s disease will help to better understand this devastating disease and could lead to better treatment, ways to reverse its effects and even find a cure.”

This project blends the unparalleled expertise in Alzheimer’s research of these two premier institutions. MGH has identified the largest number of candidate Alzheimer’s genes in the world while University of Pittsburgh has developed a unique and powerful method to analyze the brain for signs of Alzheimer’s pathology.

Funded exclusively by Cure Alzheimer’s Fund, the project will focus on advanced work identifying key components of Alzheimer’s pathology in living Alzheimer’s patients, which will enable more rapid development of effective therapies against the disease. The team is headed by University of Pittsburgh’s William Klunk, MD, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry and Neurology and Co-Director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, and MGH’s Rudy Tanzi, PhD, Harvard University’s Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology and Director of Genetics and Aging Research Unit, and Chairman of the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund Research Consortium.

University of Pittsburgh and MGH researchers will identify and characterize novel curcumin-like (CLDs) derivatives for the treatment and early prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. Several recent studies have suggested promise for treatment of Alzheimer’s with the major component of curry spice or turmeric called curcumin. However, the major drawback in this treatment is the rapid breakdown of the curcumin by the stomach and liver leads to poor bioavailability or absorption by the brain. The purpose of the research study is to develop means of overcoming obstacles to rapid breakdown and creating  methodologies for precisely delivering curcumin derivatives to appropriate locations within the brain.

Dr. Tanzi’s team will further study the properties of these CLDs in variety of assays and animal models for effects on the amyloid beta protein precursor (APP) and the generation of Abeta, a protein that is widely believed to drive Alzheimer’s disease pathology.

University of Pittsburgh will synthesize the CLDs and test their Abeta-binding affinities as well as their bioavailabilities, brain entry and toxicity characteristics. Combining their results with the work of Dr. Tanzi’s lab, researchers will design and synthesize additional novel CLDs and test these compounds.

G. Nicolas Beckwith III, Chairperson of the University of Pittsburgh Board of Directors applauded the unique partnership and the work of the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund, “Like University of Pittsburgh, Cure Alzheimer’s Fund understands that research is where we must start to find more effective treatments and a possible cure for this devastating disease.”