A researcher at the Gladstone Institutes in California has been awarded an $11 million grant by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke to study the link between tau, a protein that naturally occurs in the human body, and the development of frontotemporal degeneration. Li Gan, PhD, a senior investigator at the Gladstone Institute of Neurological Disease, will use the grant to launch a three-part project investigating the ways in which neurons mishandle tau, and whether the resulting neuronal dysfunction may contribute to FTD. Dr. Gan will use stem cells derived from people with FTD to conduct her research.
FTD in the News
As reported in Twin Cities Business on November 23rd, a team of researchers has patented a drug treatment that stimulates the production of progranulin (PGRN), a protein necessary in maintaining the health of the brain’s frontal and temporal lobes. Deficiencies of PGRN have been linked to both FTD and ALS. The researchers — led by the Mayo Clinic’s Rosa Rademakers, who received the Potamkin Prize earlier this year — also patented a benign virus designed to deliver the drug to the brain.
Researchers are hard at work developing treatments for FTD, Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, writes Dr. Howard Fillit, executive director of the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF), in a Nov. 22 Huffington Post article. Dr. Fillit briefly explains numerous other forms of dementia in the article, explaining that many share the same physical causes (including rogue proteins in the brain, impaired blood flow, and neuroinflammation). He highlights several researchers currently investigating promising treatments that target these causes. Among them are Dr. Mari DeMarco of the University of British Columbia and Dr. Keith St. Lawrence of the Lawson Health Research Institute in Canada, both of whom received 2015 Drug Discovery Grants from AFTD and ADDF to support their research.
Researchers have patented an innovative molecular test that can measure a genetic mutation linked to both FTD and ALS. Members of the Mayo Clinic’s Neurodegenerative Diseases Lab — led by Leonard Petrucelli, chairman of the neurology department at the clinic’s Florida location — received approval for the patent on September 20. The molecular test (also known as an immunoassay) is able to diagnose properties of the mutated gene C9ORF72, which causes the most common genetic forms of FTD and ALS. Dr. Petrucelli sits on the scientific advisory board of the FTD Biomarkers Initiative.
Actress Kimberley Williams-Paisley, whose mother passed away from PPA, is featured in the cover story of the October/November issue of Neurology Now. Williams-Paisley wrote a book about her mother’s FTD journey, Where the Light Gets In, published earlier this year (AFTD discussed the book with her this past April.) In the Neurology Now article, Williams-Paisley discusses the challenges she and her family faced while caring for her mother, the regrets she still feels about her mom’s final years and the importance of FTD education and awareness. Read the entire article here.