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INI awards Accelerator grants for new research on neurodegeneration, cancer

Two teams of researchers have won Accelerator Grants from the Iowa Neuroscience Institute (INI). These grants support high-impact neuroscience research in areas that are new or add value to existing research by branching in a new direction.

“These projects represent exciting and creative new approaches that will power the revolutionary discoveries in neuroscience that are the driving force of the Iowa Neuroscience Institute,” said Ted Abel, INI director.

The following projects, selected from among 18 applications, were awarded $75,000 each for up to two years.

Jordan Schultz, PharmD

“Quantifying Brain Energetics in Huntington’s Disease”
Jordan Schultz, PharmD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry & Neurology
With co-investigators Vincent Magnotta, PhD, (Radiology), Michael Welsh, MD, (Internal Medicine), Nandakumar Narayanan, MD, PhD, (Neurology), and Peggy Nopoulos, MD (Psychiatry)

Schultz and his collaborators are building on a recent discovery about the effects of the medication terazosin, which is used to treat enlarged prostate. An interdisciplinary team of researchers at the UI and in China showed that the drug could also prevent cell death by activating an enzyme called PGK1, which is critical for cellular energy production. Cellular energy comes from the mitochondria, tiny structures that fuel the body by producing ATP. However, as we age, the body has fewer mitochondria and therefore less ATP. Reduced cellular energy production is a hallmark of many neurological diseases, many of which are also associated with aging. While the team first focused on Parkinson’s disease, they now seek to extend their work into Huntington’s disease. Schultz’s team will explore the acute effects of terazosin on ATP levels in the brain. They have developed a novel neuroimaging technique to quantify brain ATP levels in humans. They expect this research to significantly enhance understanding of the connection between energy production and neurodegeneration and to lay the ground work for future studies aimed at modifying the disease course of Huntington’s disease.


Kamal Rahmouni, PhDSonghai Chen, PhD“Regulation of Breast Cancer Progression by the Central Nervous System”
Kamal Rahmouni, Ph.D., Professor of Neuroscience and Pharmacology
Songhai Chen, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Neuroscience and Pharmacology

About 41 percent of Americans will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime and about 21 percent will die from cancer, yet current cancer treatment strategies have limited efficacy in curing cancer. Thus, there is a need to find new ways to treat cancer. Rahmouni and Chen seek to understand the contribution of the brain to the development and progression of cancer. Accumulating evidence indicates that tumors innervation plays a critical role in the initiation and progression of many types of cancer including breast cancer, the most frequent malignancy in women worldwide. However, we do not know whether the brain controls the activity of the tumor nerves. This work has the potential to uncover novel mechanisms that could lead to new cancer therapies.


Thursday, November 21, 2019