Rotary Clubs From Three States Award Penn $250,00 Grant for Alzheimer's Research From Pocket Change

(Philadelphia, PA) - Each week, Rotarians from clubs throughout North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia empty their pockets of loose money in the hopes that their individual donations will, collectively, bring about a different kind of change. Recently, officials from Rotary Districts in the three states awarded a research grant of $250,000 to researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine for their work on the prevention of oxidative stress damage - 'brain rust' - present in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease.

With the award of this grant, Rotarians will have given over $850,000 since 2001 from their Coins for Alzheimer's Research Trust (CART) fund for the research and cure of Alzheimer's and Alzheimer's related diseases. CART was begun by Roger Ackerman, a Rotarian from Sumter, South Carolina.

"Funding from sources like the Rotarians allow us to jumpstart scientific research on the many targets that we think are the molecular pathways to curing Alzheimer's," said John Trojanowski, MD, PhD, Director of Penn's Alzheimer's Disease Center. "It is remarkable that just a few citizens can band together to recognize a need and, with deliberation and foresight, deliver major awards on the level of a large foundation or government agency."

According to Trojanowski, Penn received the award primarily because of the work of Domenico Pratico
, MD, Assistant Professor of Penn's Department of Pharmacology. His work on isoprostanes, fatty acids that are formed as the result of free radical damage, have opened up a new avenue of promising research in which drugs created to prevent oxidative stress may halt Alzheimer's.

In addition to the presence of senile plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, an Alzheimer's disease brain exhibits evidence of extensive oxidative damage. Scientific research in this area suggests that oxidative damage or stress, like the effect of rust caused by oxidation of metal, plays an early and important role on Alzheimer's disease pathogenesis.

"We have shown that isoprostanes are increased in specific brain regions of Alzheimer's disease, but not in other neurodegenerative diseases," said Pratico. " In Alzheimer's disease patients, their levels of oxidative stress correlate with the severity of the disease. It is plausible that, once formed in the brain, isoprostanes could mediate the cellular responses of nerve cells to oxidative stress/amyloid plaques."

Therefore, the Penn researchers propose to study the functional role of blocking the effects of isoprostanes in the initiation and progression of Alzheimer's disease. This is a new approach to treating Alzheimer's, one that could take advantage of existing therapeutics designed to combat oxidative stress in other parts of the body, such as thromboxane antagonists that prevent oxidative damage in blood vessels.

"Funding is a real limiting factor, and the Rotarians are indeed taking a visionary approach in seeking out funding projects at the preliminary stages of research," said Trojanowski. "While I cannot say just how much it will cost to cure Alzheimer's, research in the last decade has identified many compelling and novel drug targets. And the faster we pursue each one through increased investment in drug discovery, the faster we will get to meaningful therapies."

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Penn Medicine is one of the world's leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $6.7 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top five medical schools in the United States for the past 20 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $392 million awarded in the 2016 fiscal year.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System's patient care facilities include: The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center -- which are recognized as one of the nation's top "Honor Roll" hospitals by U.S. News & World Report -- Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; Penn Wissahickon Hospice; and Pennsylvania Hospital -- the nation's first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional affiliated inpatient care facilities and services throughout the Philadelphia region include Good Shepherd Penn Partners, a partnership between Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network and Penn Medicine.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2016, Penn Medicine provided $393 million to benefit our community.

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