The new Iowa Center for Neurodegeneration will spur research breakthroughs in diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, improving treatments for underserved rural populations in Iowa and beyond.
UI Health Care Marketing and Communications
Courtesy of Joel Geerling

Neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, dementia with Lewy bodies, frontotemporal dementia, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), will affect millions of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iowans in the coming years. These diseases have no cures or disease-modifying therapies because the mechanisms of neurodegeneration remain unclear. As the population in Iowa skews older, these diseases will likely be a challenge for the state in the coming decades.

UI Health Care is establishing the new Iowa Center for Neurodegeneration to improve treatment of neurodegenerative diseases for underserved rural populations in Iowa and beyond. Housed within the Iowa Neuroscience Institute at the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, the new center will be the first-of-its-kind in the state and will integrate basic science and clinical research into a single, collaborative center focused specifically on neurodegenerative diseases.

Enhancing Iowa’s reputation for neurodegenerative disease research

Leaders at the UI Carver College of Medicine expect the new center to increase local and national visibility, assisting in the recruitment of world-class researchers to Iowa City and helping to secure future funding from National Institute for Health (NIH), as well as major philanthropic gifts.

“Neurodegenerative diseases are an enduring challenge for this and future generations of Iowans,” says Ted Abel, PhD, director of the Iowa Neuroscience Institute and chair and DEO of the Department of Neuroscience and Pharmacology at the UI Carver College of Medicine. “The new center will allow us to continue advancing care for patients and families with neurodegenerative diseases and enhance Iowa’s reputation as a leader in neurodegenerative disease research, diagnostics, advocacy and ultimately therapies.”

Leveraging success in Parkinson’s disease research

Funded by NIH grants, the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust, and additional philanthropic support, the center will build momentum off significant progress UI Hospitals & Clinics has already made on Parkinson’s disease research.

UI Hospitals & Clinics was recently selected as one of only two Parkinson’s disease research centers of excellence in the United States to receive planning grants from the NIH. The new center will provide support and infrastructure for UI Health Care clinical trials involving the potentially groundbreaking use of existing drugs shown to reverse and prevent damage in Parkinson’s disease models. 

“Establishing a dedicated center focused on Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases will help us synergize resources at the University of Iowa and the Carver College of Medicine and pursue transformational discovery,” says Nandakumar Narayanan, MD, PhD, an associate professor of neurology at the UI Carver College of Medicine who studies Parkinson’s disease. “The center will better position us to compete for national funding, catalyzing research breakthroughs that will make a palpable difference in the lives of patients affected by neurodegenerative disease.”