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WSU's Gleason Institute awards money for neurodegenerative disease research

Courtesy of Washington State University

The organization is handing out seed grants for four projects.

Washington State University’s Gleason Institute for Neuroscience is handing out money for new research into a variety of projects related to neurodegenerative diseases.

The institute this week announced it is giving $160,000 in seed grants for four projects, from basic research to development of products that may help patients with diseases such as ALS and Parkinson's.

Dr. Ken Isaacs, the director of the Gleason Institute, says the grants represent the whole range of work done by the organization.

“It actually has three legs. One is our adaptive technology center, which is open for patients and their families and caregivers, so people can visit," Isaacs said.

"The second leg is our clinical care and our clinical research through our partnership with Providence and St. Luke's Medical Center. And then the final is the discovery research, which really is the topic we’re going over today. Really, all three of those work together to support each other," he said.

The grants provide a year of funding. The recipients include not just WSU health sciences researchers, but also an engineering professor on the Pullman campus and two doctors at Providence St. Luke’s.

“A lot of people at WSU are doing research that is adjacent to neurodegenerative disease research or that can be adapted to include neurodegenerative disease research," said Andrea Lazarus, the institute's executive director.

She says the organization and its grants have spurred a variety of research and development partnerships within the university and the Spokane community.

“The request for applications stressed forming collaborations and especially collaborations across multiple disciplines, so even if folks didn’t get funded, it started a lot of talks," she said.

This was the three-year-old organization’s first round of grants. Lazarus says the organization is already looking ahead to the next awards.

“We also want to provide some seed grants for student research, maybe some medical student research, so we want to fund a few different avenues," she said.

Here's a list of the grant recipients and the proposals that received funding, along with brief descriptions provided by WSU.

Jonathan Wisor, WSU Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine

"His study will test the hypothesis that sleep reverses oxidative stress in the brain through a process that relies on nicotinamide, a form of vitamin B3. A joint effort between researchers in the Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, the study will help determine the feasibility of nicotinamide supplementation as a way to reduce brain oxidative stress and protect against neurodegenerative disease."

Travis Denton, WSU College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences

"The goal of this collaborative project with Providence St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Medical Center is to identify biomarkers of ALS in cerebral spinal fluid to speed up diagnosis of the disease, extend the treatment period, and potentially lengthen the survival of individuals with ALS."

Anita Vasavada, WSU Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture

"Led by a team of investigators from WSU and Providence St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Medical Center, this study will objectively measure neck strength and muscle activity in people with ALS, an understudied area that will yield new knowledge that could be used to improve assistive technologies such as head-controlled wheelchairs."

Glen House & Greg Carter, Providence St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Medical Center

"The St. Luke’s team will collaborate with WSU Spokane research service center staff to develop a medical device that will help individuals with neurodegenerative diseases who are impacted by abnormal bowel function. This novel technology will have the potential to improve the quality of life of individuals with neurodegenerative disease and their caregivers."

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