The ADRC at the University of Pittsburgh was established in 1985 by a grant from the National Institute on Aging (NIA), as a mechanism for integrating, coordinating, and supporting new and on-going research by established investigators in Alzheimer’s disease and aging. The ADRC was renewed in 2005 for an additional five years with outstanding evaluations by the NIA Study Section. The overall objective of the ADRC is to study the pathophysiology of Alzheimer’s disease, with the aim of improving the reliability of diagnosis of AD and developing effective treatment strategies. The center is an umbrella structure coordinating AD-related research activities within the university community and is a core source of support (e.g., resources, patients, tissue, and expert consultation for research, clinical and training activities) in the region.
Current research foci emphasize neuropsychiatry and neuropsychology, molecular genetics and epidemiology, basic neuroscience, and structural functional imaging. Exemplary studies include:
- Exploration of alterations in the brain at the early stages of AD an presymptomatic AD (including the risk state of mild cognitive impairment)
- Examination of amyloid and other metabolic changes in AD brain utilizing transgenic mice
- Examination of the neuropathological changes in Lewy body disease and its overlap with the presence of AD
- Study of genetic risk factors for AD and the genetic risks associated with the development of psychiatric symptoms, especially psychosis in AD
- Functional MR studies to make more accurate diagnoses of AD, including PET assessment of noninvasive imaging of amyloid utilizing new ligands (Pittsburgh Compound B, PIB) sensitive to amyloid in vivo
- Examination of neuroimaging effects of some of the established AD medications on cerebral blood flow and other metabolic markers in AD and PD.
- Development of new primate stem-cell derived model systems for basic research
The clinical research component of the ADRC includes an evaluation and treatment program for individuals experiencing memory impairment. Accurate diagnoses are established through an interdisciplinary approach with evaluations in neurology, psychiatry, neuropsychology, medicine and social work. After diagnosis, eligible subjects are followed longitudinally and participate in additional ADRC research studies. Currently, cutting-edge neuroimaging studies and several experimental therapeutic trials are ongoing in Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.