Dr. Batrakova receives Oldfield Award

by Chuck Brown, UNMC public relations | May 06, 2010

Elena Batrakova, Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences, has been named the recipient of the 12th annual Vada Kinman Oldfield Alzheimer's Research Fund Award.

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Elena Batrakova, Ph.D.
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Richard Carlson
Dr. Batrakova -- who will receive the award during a campus ceremony on Friday -- develops nanomedicines that cross the blood brain barrier and slow the cycle of neuroinflammation and damage in Alzheimer's patients.

The blood brain barrier prevents bacteria and other toxic materials from contacting certain vulnerable parts of the brain. Unfortunately, it also prevents many medicines from accessing areas of the brain that are affected by Alzheimer's disease.

"Successful delivery of drug therapies across the blood brain barrier will reduce inflammation in the brain and protect neurons in Alzheimer patients," Dr. Batrakova said.

To deliver drugs to the brain, she uses living cells called macrophages. In mouse models, Dr. Batrakova has successfully injected animals with cells loaded with medicine that have crossed the blood brain barrier and reduced inflammation and protected neurons.

"Our therapies might slow down inflammation in the brain and thus protect neurons in patients with Alzheimer's disease in future," said Dr. Batrakova, who will receive a $10,000 research stipend with the Oldfield Award.

The late Col. Barney Oldfield established the award in honor of his wife, who battled Alzheimer's for 11 years.

Also at Friday's ceremony, Richard Carlson Jr., a research technician in the lab of Stephen Bonasera, M.D., Ph.D. -- last year's Oldfield Award recipient -- will receive the sixth annual Nancy and Ronald Reagan Alzheimer's Scholarship Fund Award.

The Kinman-Oldfield Family Foundation established the Reagan award to honor the late president, who battled Alzheimer's for 10 years. Oldfield met Reagan in 1939 and later became his publicist. The award recognizes scientists for promising research into Alzheimer's disease and comes with a $5,000 stipend.

Carlson's research explores the connection between unintentional weight loss and Alzheimer's disease.

Experts believe unintentional weight loss may be a precursor to Alzheimer's disease. While the mechanism of weight loss is not well understood, data shows that Alzheimer's patients who experience such weight loss often have increased dementia severity and experience a rapid progression of their disease.

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