The Mayo Alzheimer's Disease Research Center (ADRC) is one of 30 Alzheimer's disease research centers across the country designated and funded by the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health. The Mayo ADRC is jointly based in Rochester, MN and Jacksonville, FL.
The purpose of the center is to provide care for dementia patients and promote research and education on Alzheimer's Disease and related dementias. The Mayo ADRC is organized into five cores:
The purpose of the Administrative Core is to oversee and coordinate all research activities of the Mayo ADRC. It facilitates new research projects on dementia and Alzheimer's Disease.
The purpose of the Clinical Core is to assess persons with memory and related complaints and persons of the same age and gender who have normal cognitive abilities. Patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD) and other dementias and normal volunteers are invited to participate in a variety of research projects.
Education and Information Transfer Core
The purpose of the Education and Information Transfer Core is to share the most current information about risk factors, diagnosis, treatment and caregiving strategies, and resources on Alzheimer's Disease to healthcare professionals, family members and the community at large. This Core works to share information and support those impacted by Alzheimer's disease and related dementias through distributing current materials and information, as well as offering a dementia education series, caregiver support groups, an early stage support group series, and annual full day conference for families and caregivers. In addition, a newsletter entitled Age of Wellness is produced and available free of charge to those who request it. The Education Core also assists with the recruitment of volunteers to ongoing research protocols. Contact 507-284-4059 (MN) or 904-953-7103 (FL) for more information.
The purpose of the Neuropathology Core is to perform detailed neuropathologic examinations on patients with mild cognitive impairment and dementia such that a definite diagnosis of the cause of cognitive impairment/dementia can be determined. This Core also provides a mechanism for characterizing cognitively normal elderly individuals, as well as provides tissue to other investigators who are researching aging and dementia.
Statistics and Data Management Core
The Statistics and Data Management Core is responsible for providing statistical expertise for research in the ADRC, and for designing and managing the ADRC research databases and tissue banks. This core provides statistical consultation to the research projects as well as support for the operation of the cores.
What We Do
The Mayo Clinic Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center conduct many types of research studies related to dementia, as well as normal or successful aging. The Mayo Clinic Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center’s is currently one of 32 NIA (National Institute of Aging)-funded centers across the United States. Each of these centers are working to translate research advances into improved diagnosis and care for Alzheimer's disease (AD) patients while, at the same time, focusing on the program's long-term goal of finding a way to cure and possibly prevent AD.
For patients and families affected by AD, the Mayo Clinic Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center offers:
The Mayo Clinic Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center needs hundreds of individuals to volunteer. At any given time this may include persons with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), early dementia (such as Alzheimer’s disease or Lewy Body Dementia) and even persons with no memory problems at all. In science terminology, such people are called “normal controls.” Without cognitively healthy people willing to participate, Alzheimer’s research cannot advance.
Without You, We can’t move forward
A Closer Look at Our Research
Alzheimer's Disease research can be viewed from two perspectives: a clinical or patient oriented research and a basic science or laboratory research. On the clinical or patient oriented side of research, the Mayo ADRC is active at characterizing the very earliest phases of cognitive impairment that may ultimately develop into AD. The transitional period between the cognitive changes of normal aging and very early AD has become recognized as mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Mayo researchers have been very active in describing the clinical features of individuals with MCI and following them longitudinally. We have learned about the factors that predict which individuals will progress to AD at a more rapid rate and we are currently involved in clinical treatment trials designed to alter this rate of progression. This work has been an active area of investigation for numerous Mayo researchers.
Another major thrust of the patient oriented research at the Mayo ADRC involves dementias other than AD. For example, a great deal of work is going on in the area of FTD with regard its clinical characterization, neuroimaging features, genetics and neuropathology. Individuals with FTD present in a different fashion to their physicians and have underlying pathology that is quite different from AD. As such it is an important entity to study and the ultimate goal is to develop therapeutic interventions.
Another dementing disorder which has received a great deal of attention at the Mayo ADRC is DLB. These individuals have features of cognitive impairment and subtle motor signs consistent with parkinsonism. They have unusual behavioral characteristics and their responsiveness and sensitivity to drugs may be quite different from individuals with AD. Many persons with DLB are being followed longitudinally in our Center and are also receiving neuroimaging studies and we are studying post-mortem autopsy tissue on these individuals as well.
Finally, VaD is also an important condition receiving attention at the Mayo ADRC. Vascular dementia refers to individuals who develop cognitive impairment but also have experienced strokes in their clinical course. Consequently, the challenge for the investigators is to determine which aspects of the clinical picture are due to possible vascular features and which might be due to other concomitant factors such as degeneration seen in AD. It is not uncommon to find mixed pictures involving AD, DLB and VaD.
Jacksonville Clinical Research
Colleagues at Mayo Jacksonville involved in the ADRC are also studying individuals with AD, MCI, FTD, DLB and VaD. In addition, Jacksonville has the capacity to recruit and follow a large number of African-American individuals. The research group in Jacksonville has established a cohort of 200-300 African-American normal elderly individuals and are following them longitudinally to determine what predictors might lead to AD. These studies have resulted in the development of factors involving genetics, blood proteins and neuroimaging characteristics of these individuals that may be useful in developing prediction models.
Investigators in Jacksonville and Rochester are also involved in numerous clinical trials for AD. Some of these studies of potentially new therapeutics include anti-inflammatory agents, lipid lowering drugs, drugs that are designed to alter chemical systems in the brain and the use of certain vitamins and supplements. These clinical trials afford Mayo patients the opportunity to be involved in cutting edge research in the therapeutics of AD.
On the basic science side, various laboratories at Mayo Clinic Jacksonville have been involved in research designed to understand and prevent AD and FTD. Several of the laboratories are involved in studying the protein, amyloid, which is felt to be a major factor in the development of AD. Investigators at Mayo Jacksonville have been among the world’s leaders in this type of research and have investigated characteristics of the amyloid protein itself as well as genetic factors that may predispose to developing this protein. Studies involving both humans and mouse models of AD have yielded exciting new potential diagnostic tests for AD. Jacksonville investigators are pursing a blood test that may shed light on an individual risk for developing AD in the future. If this were to be successful, this blood test could be used as either a diagnostic tool or possibly to monitor therapy as specific drugs are developed to have an affect on the amyloid protein in the body. Recent studies have indicated that a certain genetically driven elevation of this protein may play a major role in the development of typical late onset AD.
Investigators at Mayo Jacksonville have also been focusing on the identification of novel compounds that may lower the amyloid protein in the brain. By studying many compounds that are already FDA approved and on the market, insight may be gained into new therapeutic options. This drug screening procedure has already identified a subgroup of drugs with anti-inflammatory action that may have specific action on the amyloid protein. This work has been translated into clinical trials, which are currently underway investigating the potential utility of this new therapeutic agent.
Research is also progressing on a better understanding of the genetics, pathological development and hopefully treatment of individuals with FTD. Mayo Jacksonville researchers were among the first to identify novel genetic mutations in some families with FTD. This work has lead to an animal model of the disorder and a better understanding of the causes of the disease. Work is continuing toward therapeutics for this form of dementia and a project in the new ADRC grant is focused on a particular subtype of individuals with FTD who also have features of motor neuron disease.
The Mayo ADRC has been at the forefront of the field with regard to the neuropathology of these dementing disorders. Investigators in Jacksonville and Rochester have been studying autopsy materials from individuals followed in the ADRC to learn about the underlying pathologic causes of the various dementing disorders. Since a great number of normal elderly subjects have also volunteered for the research projects, we are also learning a great deal about the underlying foundation of normal aging changes in the brain. This is an important backdrop against which to compare the changes found in the brains of individuals with the various dementing diseases.
A major component of the Mayo ADRC involves extensive neuroimaging research. Mayo investigators have been at the forefront of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanning in normal aging, MCI and AD. In the most recent grant period, this work will be extended to FTD as well. Thousands of MRI scans have been done on subjects enrolled in Mayo research projects and these scans provide a warehouse of information to allow Mayo investigators to study certain diagnostic features of these scans and longitudinal course of normal aging, MCI, AD, FTD, DLB and VaD. Exquisite detail is obtained using the MRI scans which allows for precise quantitation of important brain structures involved in each of these diseases. This program has also afforded us a wealth of information on brain imaging characteristics in normal aging.
Recently Mayo investigators have collaborated with their counterparts from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis to receive funding from the State of Minnesota to begin a new neuroimaging collaboration. These researchers will be using instrumentation at the University of Minnesota to perform MRI scans on animal models of AD. It is hoped that the information gathered from these types of studies will translate into new imaging techniques for humans who either have AD or are at risk of developing AD in the future. This would afford us a new opportunity to follow therapeutic inventions in living patients.
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