McLaughlin Institute
  1. New Research Projects at MRI

    November 22, 2017 by admin

    MRI researchers Mike Kavanaugh, Teresa Gunn, and Deb Cabin began work this summer on a new genetically engineered mouse model of a common inherited neurotransmitter transporter gene mutation that causes cognitive and developmental delay in children. The team aims to determine the genetic and physiological mechanisms underlying the disorder, and they will test a novel therapeutic approach to treat the disorder using a drug developed at the University of Montana School of Pharmacy. Preliminary studies with the new drug have also suggested that it represents a new potential approach to treat schizophrenia.

    Dr. Teresa Gunn received a grant from the National Institutes of Health to collaborate with GeneSearch, Inc. of Bozeman, Montana, to develop new technologies that will streamline the creation of mouse models of human disease. The work is opening up new possibilities to more rapidly advance understanding of the genetic basis of human disease.

    MRI researchers and Harvard/MIT collaborators Sonia Vallabh and Eric Minikel launched a preclinical trial this fall at MRI to test a new gene-silencing approach to treat prion disease. In the ongoing trial, the team is using a new DNA-based drug from Ionis Pharmaceuticals to treat the disease in mice, with the ultimate aim to translate the treatment to human disease. Sonia and Eric spoke at MRI two years ago about their journey into prion research with guidance from MRI. Sonia carries the gene for Fatal Familial Insomnia, a prion disease that killed her mother at age 52, and they are racing against the clock to find a way to save Sonia and others like her from this dreadful disease.

    McLaughlin Research Institute and collaborators at Columbia University received three grants this year from the National Institutes of Health to support research at MRI with mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease. The mice are genetically engineered to recapitulate human mutations linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Studies with these mice will provide critical information to understand the pathological mechanism of changes in genes such as the ApoE4 allele, which are associated with increased prevalence of the disease.

  2. MRI Welcomes Affiliate Research Faculty Members

    November 21, 2017 by admin

    McLaughlin Research Institute is pleased to announce several new affiliate faculty members who are focused on translating basic research into cures and have projects underway at MRI. Our new colleagues are:

    1. Jeffrey Carroll, Ph.D. While Jeff was serving in the U.S. Army in Kosovo,
    his mother was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease – a fatal, incurable,
    genetically inherited neurodegenerative disease that had killed his grandmother.
    After he learned that he had inherited the genetic abnormality that causes
    Huntington’s, Jeff embarked on a career as a neuroscientist that has included
    postdoctoral training at Harvard and a post at Western Washington University,
    where he is Assistant Professor of Neuroscience and one of the country’s leading
    Huntington’s researchers. In work funded by the CHDI foundation
    ( he and his and his group will be conducting
    preclinical trials of a promising new gene-silencing approach to Huntington’s
    disease at MRI, using mice genetically engineered to model the disease.

    2. Niels Danbolt, MD, Ph.D., is Professor of Medicine in the Institute of
    Basic Medical Sciences, University of Oslo in Norway. Dr. Danbolt’s work has
    resulted in the creation of several innovative genetic models to study and
    eventually develop treatments for neurodegenerative disorders like epilepsy. A
    research collaboration between the Danbolt and Kavanaugh labs is focused on
    transporters for neurotransmitters that are involved in critical brain functions
    like perception and memory. Dr. Danbolt and his associates will spend part of the
    year in Montana for these studies funded by the Research Council of Norway and
    the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

    3. Ed Schmidt, Ph.D., is Professor in Montana State University’s Department
    of Microbiology and Immunology. Dr. Schmidt’s NIH-funded research is focused on
    understanding the role of gene regulation in processes ranging from aging to
    cancer. His lab has created innovative genetic models in mice that are now being
    used in research at MRI. His studies of the mechanisms involved in handling
    oxidative stress are shedding new light on the links between metabolism and a wide
    range of disease processes including many that affect the brain.

  3. MRI Medical Clinic to Open in 2019

    November 20, 2017 by admin

    McLaughlin Research Institute eagerly anticipates the 2019 launch of the Center for Cognitive and Metabolic Wellness, the onsite clinic at MRI that will provide patient care and clinical research under the direction of Carol Bridges, MD. The clinic, a collaboration with Benefis Health System, will provide a model for speeding application of research discoveries to the patient.

    The clinic will be the site of a clinical study on Alzheimer’s in collaboration with Providence Health & Services and its Chief Science Officer, Dr. Leroy Hood, a pioneering scientist and a longtime member of MRI’s Scientific Advisory Committee.

    The clinic’s director, Dr. Bridges, has opened several CostCare Family Practice Walk-In Clinics in Missoula and Helena, which she created to focus on wellness and disease prevention. This innovative healthcare model is aligned with the “P4 Medicine” promoted by Leroy Hood, MD, PhD. Predictive, preventive, personalized and participatory medicine is the medicine of the future, thanks in part to Dr. Hood, who has been working toward this goal since the mapping of the human genome – a project he helped make possible – revealed genetic information that is revolutionizing medicine to predict and prevent the diseases each individual is genetically susceptible to.

    Dr. Bridges has practiced medicine in Missoula for nearly 20 years. We are delighted to welcome her as Clinical Director of the Center for Cognitive and Metabolic Wellness at MRI.

    Other clinicians affiliated with MRI’s new clinic include the following:

    Soo Borson, MD, has been helping steer MRI in this clinical
    direction for several years as a consultant. She is professor
    emerita at the University of Washington, where she founded the
    Memory Disorders Clinic and was a director of the Alzheimer’s
    Disease Research Center for many years. She developed the
    Mini-Cog, a widely used and highly regarded screening tool for
    cognitive impairment and works with communities to develop
    services for people with cognitive impairment.

    Dennis Dietrich, MD, is a neurologist with Advanced Neurology
    Specialists in Great Falls. His commitment to finding the best and
    newest treatment options for his patients with cognitive
    impairment, multiple sclerosis and stroke keeps him actively
    involved in conducting clinical trials for new therapies.

    Loretta Bolyard, PhD, is a clinical psychologist practicing
    independently in Butte, Montana, where she specializes in
    neuropsychology and the treatment of patients with cognitive
    disorders including Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases.

    With this dynamic team, the Center for Cognitive and Metabolic Wellness will participate as one of several trial sites in a clinical trial run by UCLA’s Easton Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research in collaboration with Dr. Hood’s team at Providence Health & Services.

    The ultimate goal of the project is to develop approaches to prevent or delay the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Hood and others have provided preliminary data suggesting new approaches that may slow or potentially reverse the disease progression. The clinical trial will evaluate these approaches and hopefully advance them further toward widespread application.

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