December 2016, Healthy Life

LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center aims to prevent the development of Alzheimer’s and dementia

by Pennington Biomedical Research Center
Dr. Jeff Keller (left) talks about Alzheimer’s and dementia research with Rob Brouillette.
Dr. Jeff Keller (left) talks about Alzheimer’s and dementia research with Rob Brouillette.

Currently, there are no treatments or disease-modifying medications on the market to treat Alzheimer’s disease. The Institute for Dementia Research and Prevention (IDRP) at LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center is working to change that. Home to cutting-edge brain research, Pennington Biomedical’s IDRP is working to find ways to treat and manage Alzheimer’s disease. The newest mission of the IDRP? Scientists hope to find a way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia from occurring, but they need the community’s help.

By 2050, the number of people living with Alzheimer’s disease in America will have ballooned from 5 million to as many as 16 million, at a cost of $1.1 trillion annually.

“Enrolling in a research study – even if you have no signs or symptoms of Alzheimer’s or dementia – is the best way you can help us in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Jeff Keller, director of Pennington Biomedical’s IDRP.

“Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Right now more than 5 million people in our country are living with Alzheimer’s disease, and that number is only expected to grow. By 2050, the cost of Alzheimer’s and other dementias could rise to as much as $1 trillion, so the need is urgent for people to join us in the fight against these chronic diseases,” Keller said.

In addition to their studies for people who already have a dementia diagnosis, Pennington Biomedical is looking for people with normal brain function who are concerned about their memory. The hope is that by learning more about the brain as it ages, researchers will be able to better understand what triggers Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, and will be able to target treatments that delay dementia or stop it altogether.

By joining a research study, participants are eligible to receive insightful information about their body’s health and their brain’s health from state-of-the-art technology that they can then share with their physicians. Plus, people who participate in a research study may receive study-related medication and consultations at no cost, along with compensation for their time.

Pennington Biomedical’s IDRP is the only Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study site between Houston and Birmingham. That ranking puts it among top research institutions such as Harvard, Yale and the Mayo Clinic, making Pennington Biomedical’s IDRP an invaluable resource for the community.

To learn more about how to participate in a brain health study, visit www.pbrc.edu/healthierLA, call 225-763-2973 or e-mail dementia@pbrc.edu.

Source of statistics: The Alzheimer’s Association

Healthy Life, September 2016

New grant allows for quicker screening of potential diabetes treatments

by pennington biomedical research center
Dr. Collier
Dr. Collier

It often takes decades to develop new medications, test their safety and effectiveness, clear regulatory hurdles, and get them in the hands of doctors and patients who can benefit from them.

The time that it takes to bring a new drug from the research bench all the way to the consumer is often a decade or more. As the rates of chronic disease in the United States are skyrocketing, federal processes are constantly being refined in an effort to speed the path of getting new, promising drugs into the marketplace. Likewise, there is also room for refinement along other portions of the drug development pipeline.

With the health and wellness of patients in mind who yearn for treatment options and alternatives, researchers at LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center are working to speed up the very first steps in the lengthy process of drug development.

Dr. Rogers
Dr. Rogers

Drs. Richard Rogers, Gerlinda Hermann and Jason Collier were recently awarded a LIFT2 grant from LSU to develop a means of screening potential new medications much quicker than was previously possible. Currently, a screening (or assay) for new drugs takes about two days to perform, but the new test they are working on may allow researchers to shrink that two-day period to a mere two hours.

Currently, one in 10 people has diabetes and one in three is at risk for the disease (and many do not know they are at risk). In Louisiana, one in two children is considered overweight or obese — a risk factor for developing diabetes, heart disease or metabolic syndrome, all conditions that in the past have characteristically affected people who are middle age and older.

Not only will this new test that Pennington Biomedical researchers are working on speed up the development of much-needed new treatments for diabetes, but it could also lower costs and increase the speed of evaluating therapeutic models or disease models right at the time when the need is most dire for people suffering from this all too common chronic disease.

That new, faster test will help determine the ability of pancreatic beta cells to respond to blood sugar and secrete insulin. The test will also assess the ability of certain tissues in our body to respond to insulin.

Dr. Hermann
Dr. Hermann

“I’m excited for this opportunity,” said Collier. “Anytime we are able to speed up research and development it can benefit people who are working to manage diseases like diabetes, and ultimately that’s why I go to work every day.”

Rogers, Hermann and Collier also hope that this new LIFT2 grant will allow them to transfer the technology from an experimental platform to that of an easier-to-use system that will make the test ready for commercialization and wider use.

“Our researchers are developing new and unique ways of combatting the chronic diseases that affect so many in our population,” noted Dr. David Winwood, associate executive director of the Office of Business Development and Commercialization at Pennington Biomedical. “Funding like this from LSU can provide the key ‘proof-of-concept’ resources needed to move those ideas from the lab bench to the patient’s bedside.”

*Dr. Rogers holds the John S. McIlhenny Endowed Professorship in Nutritional Neuroscience.