Dr. Feldman (right) with Charlene Handleman (left).
Dr. Feldman (right) with Charlene Handleman (left). Credit: Michigan Medicine

Above: Charlene Handleman (left) with Dr. Feldman (right).

Credit: Michigan Medicine

Alzheimer’s disease research at the University of Michigan Program for Neurology Research and Discovery (PNR&D) received a significant boost Sept. 21 in the form of a $150,000 gift from Charlene Handleman of Bloomfield Hills. This contribution will create the Handleman Emerging Scholar, which will support a PNR&D junior faculty member investigating Alzheimer’s disease.

“I am immensely appreciative of Charlene’s continued support of the work being accomplished in my laboratory,” said Eva Feldman, M.D., Ph.D., the Russell N. DeJong Professor of Neurology and PNR&D Director. “This will ensure that our program attracts elite scientists who are conducting groundbreaking Alzheimer’s research.”

At the PNR&D, stem cell research in Alzheimer’s disease is led by Assistant Professor of Neurology Lisa McGinley, Ph.D., who will be the inaugural Handleman Emerging Scholar. Recent data demonstrate transplanted neural stem cells greatly increase brain function in Alzheimer’s disease models by improving memory and learning ability.

“It is an honor for me to support the life-changing Alzheimer’s research taking place in Dr. Feldman’s laboratory,” Handleman said. “I have had the pleasure of learning about Dr. McGinley’s work, and I came away inspired by her passion and expertise.”

As a result of the encouraging data, the National Institute on Aging (NIA) recently issued a U01 grant to the PNR&D in the amount of $3 million over three years. The funding will be instrumental in the continued development of stem cell therapies, with the long-term goal being the creation of a human clinical trial.

“Obtaining this grant is a credit to the significant preliminary research conducted by Dr. Lisa McGinley,” Feldman said. “It is truly remarkable to watch what the healthy stem cells can do to improve cognition in Alzheimer’s disease models. We are very fortunate to receive additional funding from the NIA as I believe we are on the precipice of making an immense impact on the Alzheimer’s population.”

Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S. More than 5.7 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, which is the primary cause of dementia in the country. This number is projected to reach 14 million Americans by 2050. The national cost of caring for the Alzheimer’s population is currently estimated to be more than $277 billion for 2018. By 2050, these costs could reach $1.1 trillion.

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