University of Pittsburgh named Parkinson Disease Center for Advanced Research

August 28, 2006

PITTSBURGH, Aug. 28 - The University of Pittsburgh has been named an American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA) Advanced Center for Parkinson's Disease Research, a designation that places it in an elite group with eight other leading institutions in the United States.

J. Timothy Greenamyre, M.D., Ph.D., UPMC Endowed Professor of Neurology and chief, movement disorders division, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, will direct all aspects of the center and chair the center's executive committee. Dr. Greenamyre, an internationally renowned Parkinson's disease researcher, was recruited to Pitt's faculty in 2004 to direct the Pittsburgh Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases (PIND).

"Being selected as an APDA Advanced Center for Parkinson's Disease research builds on a long history of excellence in Parkinson's disease research at the University of Pittsburgh and will allow us to capitalize on our growing strengths in the basic and clinical aspects of Parkinson's disease research," said Dr. Greenamyre, who also is chair of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Parkinson Study Group and a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Michael J. Fox Foundation. "We hope that our research will make a difference in the lives of people with Parkinson's disease and for their families as well."

The other APDA centers are located at Boston University School of Medicine; Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta; UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles; the University of Alabama at Birmingham; University of Virginia Medical Center, Charlottesville; UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Brunswick, N.J.; and Washington University Medical Center, St. Louis.

As an APDA Advanced Research Center, the university will receive $90,000 per year for five years, for a total of $450,000.

The grant will support both clinical and basic science research, with studies likely to focus on developing methods for early Parkinson's disease (PD) diagnosis, characterizing the swallowing and respiratory problems of PD, understanding how iron accumulates in the PD brain, and on evaluating gene transfer as a way to stop the neurodegeneration process of Parkinson's.

In addition to the $450,000 grant, the APDA also awarded Sarah Berman, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of neurology, and Rehana Leak, Ph.D., a research associate in the department of neurology, one-year $50,000 research grants.

Dr. Berman will use the award to study mitochondrial dynamics in vulnerability and protection of aging in PD, and Dr. Leak will conduct her research on preconditioning-induced neuroprotection in models of PD.

The mission of PIND is to transform cutting-edge science into novel therapies and diagnostics that directly benefit individuals affected by neurodegenerative diseases. PIND's mission is bolstered by and integrated with clinical programs in the department of neurology, including the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, the Comprehensive Movements Disorders Clinic, the UPMC Stroke Institute and the Muscular Dystrophy Association ALS Center.
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The American Parkinson Disease Association, Inc. was founded in 1961 to "ease the burden and find a cure" for Parkinson's disease. Headquartered in New York, the organization focuses its energies on research, patient support, education and raising public awareness of the disease. Each year the APDA scientific advisory board reviews grant requests and submits recommendations for funding researchers whose work shows promise of making scientific breakthroughs or finding improved treatments for Parkinson's disease.

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

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