Home to a glorious medical school and a developing “medical district,” southern Nevada has strengthened its real medical care in recent years. For researcher Samantha John, the region’s diverse population was another key factor that drew her here.
“I am particularly interested in health inequalities in neurodegenerative diseases,” says John, an assistant professor in UNLV’s Brain Health Division. “So it was important to find a city that was ethnically and racially diverse.”
John embarked on a three-year research project to study how race and ethnicity influence patient-reported outcomes and diagnoses of neurodegenerative diseases. Hers has moved from the National Institutes of Health to UNLV and his clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Cleveland, Las Vegas, for a neuroscience research project made possible by a recent $11.3 million grant renewal. Just one.
The infusion follows an initial grant of $11.1 million awarded to UNLV and the Ruvo Center in 2015 for the development of a neuroscience research center. The Brain Health Division, part of UNLV’s School of Integrated Health Services, helped bring researchers like John to town.
UNLV and the Ruvo Center have jointly established the Center for Neurodegenerative and Translational Neuroscience (CNTN). Aaron Ritter, a staff neuropsychiatrist at the Ruvo Center and co-director of the grant, says a range of research has blossomed there. Research will move into Phase 2, from studying the effects of Alzheimer’s disease and potential treatments to how to detect the disease using various biomarkers such as eye retinas and blood samples.
Communities can help advance the research, says Ritter.
“Nevada has one of the fastest growing Alzheimer’s populations,” he says. “With people moving here and the disease becoming so common among people over the age of 65, Nevada people can contribute meaningful research.”
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Nevada was home to 49,000 Alzheimer’s patients in 2020. By 2025, that number is projected to grow to 64,000, a 30.6% increase, and Nevada will rank third among all states by then. Alzheimer’s disease is her sixth leading cause of death in the United States, according to the National Institute on Aging.
CNTN recruits hundreds of Alzheimer’s patients for annual tests that include brain scans and blood samples, some of whom have been in the study for seven years, said the founder of UNLV’s Brain Health division. and Jefferson Kinney, co-chair of the grant. According to Ruvo Center statistics, CNTN will expand from one study in 2015 to 13 studies in 2022, enrolling more than 230 participants. Did.
The data collected from these participants are also valuable in the wider field of neuroscience. Researchers say it will advance research and help us understand and treat neurodegenerative diseases.
“It’s a living database,” says Ritter. Clinical cohorts are right at the heart of it. ”
For researchers like John, working with such a diverse group of subjects helps them better understand how neurodegenerative diseases are actually diagnosed, measured and treated.
“When we talk about research, in most clinical or medical studies, the sample of participants, by and large, tends to be non-Hispanic white,” says John. individuals tend to have a college degree or college degree, they tend to speak English, and they tend to be individuals with higher income levels.
“It is certainly not a sample of what our country really looks like, nor does it represent the people who are suffering. [neurodegenerative] It looks sick.
Nevada also provides access to patients from rural areas, which could prove important to researchers. “People’s experiences in urban and rural settings may make a difference in how Alzheimer’s disease develops and the types of outcomes associated with the disease,” says Ritter.
The type of grant received by UNLV and the Ruvo Center (Center for Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) award) aims to develop faculty and strengthen research infrastructure in historically underfunded states. Kinney says the goal is for researchers to continue working independently after receiving her grant for three to four years.
So far, three junior scientists who started with grants have risen from preliminary to senior scientist status and now have their own laboratories focused on different aspects of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. is operating. Research is also gaining attention. More than 100 papers cite the grant, according to Ruvo Center data, and CNTN data has been presented at national conferences.
“This is one of the great examples of how many people from different domains are working together,” says Kinney. “It continues to benefit research progress, researcher progress, and clinical care progress.”
Kinney and Ritter are calling on anyone over the age of 55, with or without a neurodegenerative disease, to participate in CNTN research, contribute to science, and learn about their own brain health. e-mail [email protected] or visit clevelandclinic.org/nevadaresearch for more information.
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