Ruvo Center Takes Nothing for Granted

The 3-year-old Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health is again proving that a stand-alone nonprofit science outfit can thrive in Las Vegas. The center is part of a consortium that recently landed a major research award from the National Institutes of Health.

The award could total $55 million over five years, starting with $11 million for 2013, according to the NIH’s division on aging. The money is going to the Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study consortium to fund four studies on the detection, prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s. The Ruvo Center’s portion will depend on its contributions to the studies.

As one of 70 research institutions in the consortium, the center will participate in three of the four studies, including one that looks at the potential effects of exercise on cognition and the parts of the brain affected by Alzheimer’s.

Another study could lead to prevention of the disease, says Ruvo Center director Jeffrey Cummings. It tests a new drug in people who appear outwardly normal, but whose brain scans show early signs of Alzheimer’s pathology. Follow-up scans will determine whether the drug has any effect on their cognitive function.

Cummings feels a sense of urgency about such treatments. “There are 5.5 million victims of Alzheimer’s in the U.S.,” he says. “If we don’t find a way to treat or prevent this disease, there will be 13 million by 2020, as the population ages and baby boomers move into their risk period.”

The NIH grant and studies fall under a national plan to address Alzheimer’s outlined by U.S. Health and Human Services last year. The massive, coordinated effort is meant to find effective prevention and treatment by 2025.

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