Mayo Clinic receives gift award to further explore Lewy body dementia in the elderly

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The Harry T Mangurian Jr Foundation has awarded Mayo Clinic a US$1 million gift, pledged over four years, to help continue its work in Lewy body dementia. The funds will support studies designed to understand how Lewy body dementia develops, how to treat it more effectively, and how to diagnose it earlier.

According to Mayo Clinic, Lewy body dementia is the second most common form of dementia in the United States.

“The generous donation by Mangurian Foundation will be used to advance our knowledge about one of the most common and least recognised disorders that causes dementia,” said Dennis Dickson, a neuropathologist who is credited with being among the first to recognise the impact of Lewy body dementia in the elderly.

“This gift offers the exciting potential for improving the future care of patients with the disorder,” said Dickson, who will oversee the projects the gift supports.

“We are pleased to provide this support to the Mayo Clinic, hoping that it not only enhances their research efforts into Lewy body and other dementias, but also inspires others to join in seeking effective treatments for this and similar diseases,” said Stephen Mehallis, president of the Harry T Mangurian Jr Foundation. “Our mission statement reflects our benefactor’s wishes and determination to continue the fight against these diseases.”

Few medical centres have the experience with Lewy body dementia to perform studies in genetics, new drugs studies, and imaging, as Mayo Clinic proposes, Mehallis added. Among their advances, Mayo researchers have identified features of the disease that helps physicians distinguish it, discovered distinct brain pathologies and located genes that cause or influence risk for Lewy body dementia, and have developed promising imaging techniques to aid in diagnosis.

 

The Mangurian Foundation gift will fund three projects that will involve scientists at Mayo Clinic campuses in Jacksonville, Florida, and in Rochester, Minnesota, according to Dickson.

The first study combines a clinical registry with genetics research, with the ultimate goal of identifying genes that cause or influence risk for Lewy body dementia. The second project will support laboratory research to refine a cellular model of the disorder and use it to test drug therapies. The third project, occurring in Rochester, is an imaging study that is designed to develop imaging techniques to help physicians diagnose Lewy body dementia and document its progression in patients.

Among the participating researchers are Tanis Ferman, Jacksonville, and Bradley Boeve, Rochester. They are developing methods to accurately diagnose Lewy body dementia in its earliest stages, using questionnaires and psychological tests.  Kejal Kantarci, Rochester, will study Lewy body dementia patients using magnetic resonance imaging. Dickson will evaluate the brains of Lewy body dementia patients with the goals of improving the diagnostic capabilities of magnetic resonance imaging and understanding what happens in the brain that makes this form of dementia appear different from Alzheimer’s.

The Foundation will also support Shu-Hui Yen, Jacksonville, who has developed a way to form Lewy bodies in cultured nerve cells. She is using this system to discover drugs that may one day be useful in treating Lewy body dementia.

Collectively, these studies have the potential to help researchers learn more about Lewy body dementia to improve our ability to diagnose the disease earlier, identify new treatment possibilities and even create individualised medicine and prevention opportunities, Dickson said.

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