April 8, 2009

CONTACT: Kim Guenther
(215) 662-6183

Penn Geneticist Receives $18.3 Million National Institute on Aging Grant to Lead Alzheimer’s Disease Genetics Consortium Study

Gerard Schellenberg, PhD, Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, has received an $18.3 million five-year grant from the National Institute on Aging, a division of the National Institutes of Health, to lead a genome-wide association (GWA) study to identify genes that may affect risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Genome-wide association studies require a large amount of samples to be studied in order to detect significant change. Existing phenotype data and DNA samples gathered by the Alzheimer’s Disease Centers (ADCs) will be analyzed by the Alzheimer’s Disease Genetics Consortium (ADGC), which has also been formed to collect additional samples.

Researchers will be looking for susceptibility genes that potentially influence the age of the disease’s onset and the rate of progression through various disease phases – from the first symptoms through mild cognitive impairment (MCI) – leading up to full-blown Alzheimer’s disease. 

They also hope to identify genes that influence specific Alzheimer’s disease-related biomarkers, such as the amount of amyloid plaques or neurofibrillary tangles, concentrations of amyloid beta and tau in cerebral spinal fluid (CSF), the rate-of-disease progression, and responses to environmental factors (e.g. drugs, non-pharmaceutical factors).


PENN Medicine is a $3.6 billion enterprise dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. PENN Medicine consists of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System.

Penn's School of Medicine is currently ranked #4 in the nation in U.S.News & World Report's survey of top research-oriented medical schools; and, according to most recent data from the National Institutes of Health, received over $379 million in NIH research funds in the 2006 fiscal year. Supporting 1,700 fulltime faculty and 700 students, the School of Medicine is recognized worldwide for its superior education and training of the next generation of physician-scientists and leaders of academic medicine.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System (UPHS) includes its flagship hospital, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, rated one of the nation’s top ten “Honor Roll” hospitals by U.S.News & World Report; Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation's first hospital; and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center. In addition UPHS includes a primary-care provider network; a faculty practice plan; home care, hospice, and nursing home; three multispecialty satellite facilities; as well as the Penn Medicine Rittenhouse campus, which offers comprehensive inpatient rehabilitation facilities and outpatient services in multiple specialties.

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