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Gift will allow Mayo researchers to explore cause of dementia in the elderly

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. To help continue its internationally recognized work in Lewy body dementia, the Harry T. Mangurian, Jr., Foundation has awarded Mayo Clinic a $1 million gift, pledged over four years. Lewy body dementia, which combines aspects of both Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, is the second most common form of dementia in the United States.

    VIDEO ALERT: Additional audio and video resources, including excerpts from an interview with Drs. Dennis Dickson and Tanis Ferman, are available on the Mayo Clinic News Blog.

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.

"The generous donation by Mangurian Foundation will be used to advance our knowledge about one of the most common and least recognized disorders that causes dementia," says Dennis Dickson, M.D., a neuropathologist who is credited with being among the first to recognize 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," says Dr. 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," says 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."

Harry T. Mangurian, Jr., was a businessman, an owner of the Boston Celtics basketball team, a Thoroughbred racehorse owner and breeder and a philanthropist.

Few medical centers have the experience with Lewy body dementia to perform studies in genetics, new drugs studies, and imaging, as Mayo Clinic proposes, Mehallis adds. 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, Fla., and in Rochester, Minn., according to Dr. 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, Ph.D., in Jacksonville, and Bradley Boeve, M.D., in Rochester. They are developing methods to accurately diagnose Lewy body dementia in its earliest stages, using questionnaires and psychological tests.

Kejal Kantarci, M.D., in Rochester, will study Lewy body dementia patients using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a brain imaging technique, to "see" the differences between this form of dementia and Alzheimer's disease, and to understand how these changes can be recognized early.

In his neuropathology laboratory, Dr. Dickson will evaluate the brains of Lewy body dementia patients with the goals of improving the diagnostic capabilities of MRI 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, Ph.D., in 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 individualized medicine and prevention opportunities, Dr. Dickson says.


Contact: Kevin Punsky
Mayo Clinic

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