APDA Center for Advanced Research at University of Alabama School of Medicine Receives Udall Center Designation

University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) School of Medicine, one of APDA’s Centers for Advanced Research, has recently been designated a Morris K Udall Center of Excellence in Parkinson’s Disease Research. The Udall Center Program is administered by the National Institute of Neurologic Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and named in honor of Morris K Udall, a distinguished Congressman from Arizona who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD) in 1979 and remained active in Congress for 12 more years. The Udall Center Program was created in 1997 and established a network of PD Research Centers that work collaboratively as well as independently towards defining the causes and improving the treatments of PD.

The new announcement brings the total number of Udall Centers to nine. Each is located at an academic institution across the country and conducts innovative PD research. To become a Udall Center, a Parkinson’s research center must submit a competitive application describing their current capabilities and their future research goals. Receiving Udall Center designation is a major achievement and we salute Dr. David Standaert, John N Whitaker Professor and Chair, Department of Neurology as well as Chairman of APDA’s Scientific Advisory Board.

The funding that accompanies the Udall grant will be used by UAB to study the role of inflammation in Parkinson’s disease. Only in the past five to seven years has the role of the immune system in PD been seriously considered. One piece of the grant will support a clinical study which is currently underway in which 60 patients with early PD who are not taking Parkinson’s medications and 60 matched normal controls will be studied extensively, particularly investigating the state of their immune systems. Testing will involve both blood work as well as unique imaging studies that characterize the immune response.

“I think it is reasonable that within five years, we can have a treatment that would change the course of the disease,” Standaert said. “It might not be the cure entirely yet, but it would be something that would slow the progress.”

The University of Alabama School of Medicine at Birmingham joins Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Emory University which are also both Udall Centers and APDA Centers for Advanced Research. Other Udall Centers are: Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Stanford University, University of Michigan, University of Rochester and University of Minnesota.