Biomedical engineering faculty to lead project exploring novel brain stimulation approaches
MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL (09/22/16) — The University of Minnesota has been named a Udall Center of Excellence in Parkinson’s Disease Research, joining eight other centers around the country. With that distinction, the University was awarded a grant totaling $9.07 million over the next five years to improve the lives of patients with Parkinson’s disease.
A team of University researchers and physicians, including two professors in the College of Science and Engineering’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, seek to better understand the changes in brain circuitry that occur in patients with Parkinson’s disease. The multidisciplinary team, led by Jerrold Vitek, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of the University of Minnesota’s Department of Neurology, will leverage this understanding to improve deep brain stimulation (DBS) and other therapies to treat Parkinson’s disease.
“At the University of Minnesota, we have a world-class multidisciplinary team to treat patients with Parkinson’s disease,” said Vitek. “And because of our significant experience and expertise, we are able to take on this complex and often debilitating movement disorder with a goal of improving patient’s lives.”
The University of Minnesota’s Udall grant will focus on three main Parkinson’s disease research projects:
- Project 1 will study the underlying changes in brain circuitry that affects patients with Parkinson’s disease by using cutting-edging brain imaging and intraoperative techniques that Dr. Vitek pioneered.
- Project 2 will develop new stimulation approaches in a region of the brain called the pallidum that is important for controlling voluntary movement.
- Project 3 will explore the effects of novel stimulation approaches on brain circuitry that mediate movement problems associated with Parkinson’s disease. This project is led by Department of Biomedical Engineering faculty Matt Johnson and Tay Netoff.
“The Udall grant is a testament to the world-class team Dr. Vitek has assembled,” said Brooks Jackson, M.D., M.B.A., dean of the Medical School. “By bringing a multidisciplinary approach to this research, Dr. Vitek and his team have put the University of Minnesota in a position to be a leader in advancing science and hopefully developing new treatments and cures for Parkinson’s disease.”
The University of Minnesota’s Udall Center is one of nine centers across the country joining top institutions like Harvard University, Northwestern University, University of Pennsylvania and others.
“The U of M is at the forefront of cross-disciplinary brain research, pioneering the field’s most promising treatments,” said Brian Herman, vice president for research at the University of Minnesota. “We are excited for the Udall Center to build on deep brain stimulation research and aid in the development of new therapies that improve well-being and quality of life for those with Parkinson’s.”
The U of M Udall Center’s multidisciplinary approach draws on faculty expertise from across the Medical School, the College of Science and Engineering and the School of Public Health. Together, faculty will translate basic science findings and innovative technologies into new treatments for Parkinson’s disease.
“Legislative support through the MnDRIVE Brain Conditions initiative helped set the stage for the Udall Center,” said Vitek. “We are especially grateful to the people of Minnesota and the state legislature. We are committed to serving as a resource for patients and their families throughout the state as a return on this investment.”