Series of papers highlights UNMC neurodegenerative research

by Lisa Spellman, UNMC public affairs | June 24, 2008

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Howard Fox, M.D., Ph.D.
Achieving a rapid diagnosis for neurodegenerative disorders through mass spectroscopy-based biomarker discovery is the focus of several articles published recently in three major scientific journals.

The work highlights the importance of bench to bedside translational research in achieving landmark scientific discoveries. The work includes studies of how cells communicate with one another in the brain and reflects substantive works in animal models of neurological disease then to the clinic.

All were done in neuroAIDS systems with immediate relevance to a host of neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.

And while each article holds significant insight into different aspects of scientific discovery, they also show the development of what is evolving as an integrated program among scientists at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., and the UNMC Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Neuroscience.

Adding perhaps a most significant strength is the recent recruitment of Howard Fox, M.D., Ph.D., to UNMC from Scripps.

"This is a very exciting time of growth and development and is being achieved when other programs are cutting back in resources," said Howard Gendelman, M.D., chairman of the department of pharmacology and experimental neuroscience. "Our merger with Dr. Fox's research team makes us squarely competitive with the best and most active programs in proteomics as well as the other 'omic-based' research at the international level.

"Dr. Fox brings an incredible component to the team," Dr. Gendelman said. "His work perfectly bridges the work already underway in our laboratory and clinic."

The first article published in July in the "Public Library of Science ONE" highlights research from Dr. Gendelman's lab and looks at the intricate way cells in the human brain communicate.

"Dr. Fox brings an incredible component to the team. His work perfectly bridges the work already underway in our laboratory and clinic."

Howard Gendelman, M.D.

The July issue of the prestigious "Journal of Clinical Investigation" features the work from Dr. Fox's laboratory and delves into the consequences of cellular damage induced by the simian immunodeficiency virus in the brain by exploring cerebrospinal fluid changes in phospholipid metabolism within rhesus macaques, a primate model for HIV.

A third article to be published later this year in the journal Proteomics-Clinical Applications features the research of Pawel Ciborowski, Ph.D., assistant professor in the department of Pharmacology and Experimental Neuroscience. It details protein biomarkers circulating in the blood that can be linked to neurodegeneration in patients with cognitive impairments and HIV infection.

"This combined approach, using the latest tools available to develop techniques that allow us to understand, diagnose, treat and prevent neurodegenerative diseases, offers great promise for the future," Dr. Fox said.