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Lou Ruvo Center lands $3.3M grant to study Alzheimer’s in rural Nevada

Updated September 10, 2020 - 9:24 am

The Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health is one of four medical institutions across the country receiving new federal funding to research Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias in underserved communities.

Late Wednesday, the National Institutes of Health announced that the Las Vegas center has been awarded a $3.3 million grant to conduct research in rural areas of the state where there is little access to specialists who treat dementia.

Volunteers for this type of research, who have dementia or early signs of impairment, often are seeking meaning in their daily struggle, Ruvo center director Dr. Marwan Sabbagh said earlier in an interview with the Review-Journal.

“What’s the silver lining? What do we get out of this life experience that people endure? This is an opportunity to add meaning to their life experience,” he said.

In receiving the grant, the Ruvo center will join a prestigious network of about 30 Alzheimer’s disease research centers across the country, most of which are at major medical institutions on the East and West coasts or in the Midwest.

The new grant builds on a collaboration that began in 2015 between the Ruvo center and UNLV, which will share a previously granted five-year NIH Center of Biomedical Research Excellence Grant, the first to be awarded in Southern Nevada.

“People don’t look at Las Vegas and Nevada as a bastion of science or scientific advancement. And we here at the Cleveland Clinic and with our partners at UNLV, we’re here to change that perception,” Sabbagh said.

The NIH’s research-center program is designed to foster collaboration, promote data sharing and open science, and provide information and research opportunities for people and families affected by Alzheimer’s and related dementias. Researchers at these centers work to translate research advances into improved diagnosis, treatment and prevention.

The Ruvo center plans to open “pop-up clinics” in rural parts of the state to conduct some of its research. It will be seeking volunteers who will agree to annual visits and assessments with clinic staff, and, ultimately, to have their brains autopsied upon death.

The new centers receiving the three-year funding, which are designated as exploratory Alzheimer’s disease research centers, will broaden current research initiatives “with underrepresented populations such as African Americans, Native Americans and those in rural communities — all of which have different risk factors for developing these devastating diseases,” according to information from the the National Institute on Aging, part of the NIH.

The mission in Nevada will focus on rural areas, where many living with dementia go undiagnosed or are misdiagnosed due to a lack of specialists, according to the Ruvo center. Data on people living in rural areas also is scarce.

The funding for the four exploratory centers, expected to total $13.6 million over three years, expands the research-center network into four additional states. The other new locations are at the University of Alabama at Birmingham; University of New Mexico in Albuquerque; and Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

An editing error on a previous version of this article mistakenly stated that the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health was sharing the grant announced Wednesday.

Contact Mary Hynes at mhynes@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0336. Follow @MaryHynes1 on Twitter.

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