The federal government will pour $7 million more into the University of Kentucky's efforts to research and treat Alzheimer's disease at its Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, the school announced Tuesday.
The five-year grant from the National Institute on Aging makes UK's Alzheimer's Center one of 10 in the United States that have been continuously funded since 1985, said UK President Eli Capilouto.
It is the second major grant announcement for UK in two days. On Monday, UK received a $14.5 million grant to develop pollution-catching technologies for coal-fired power plants.
Michael Karpf, UK's executive vice president of health administration, said the latest grant proves that UK is "not only able to compete among the big boys but be one of the big boys" in Alzheimer's research and treatment.
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The funding, combined with a recent $20 million National Institutes of Health grant to help make laboratory advances available to patients more quickly, "puts us in a category among the top academic medical centers in the country," Karpf said.
At the Sanders-Brown center, more than 700 research volunteers from around the state participate in clinical trials and a brain donation program that allows researchers to compare brains with Alzheimer's with those that do not have the disease.
Linda Van Eldik, director of the Sanders-Brown center, said Kentucky seems to be a high-risk area for the disease.
Part of the center's mission is telling Kentuckians how to help themselves avoid the disease when possible with a proper diet and exercise, Van Eldik said.
The grant "will enable us to continue our pioneering work," she said.
Charlie and Carolyn Eyer of Lexington are part of the center's program. The Eyers, 81 and 79, respectively, take regular tests of their cognitive function. This enables UK to see what changes take place in a patient's cognition before Alzheimer's appears and is diagnosed.
The research is particularly meaningful for Carolyn, whose mother died of Alzheimer's. Her latest tests showed mild cognitive impairment. Her older brother, she said, has even more cognitive impairment.
When the Eyers die, UK will receive their brains for study.
"We will be living examples that will contribute to the body of knowledge," said Charlie Eyers.
Capilouto has his own personal experience with Alz heimer's. His father-in-law's wife suffers from Alzheimer's, he said, calling the disease "a painful, long and slow goodbye."
He said the Sanders-Brown Center was proof that UK "is not just about the work we do, it's about the lives we touch."