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February 20, 2018

Alzheimer’s Association Backs Innovative UVA Research

John Lukens, PhD, is investigating how brain injury disrupts drainage of deleterious waste from the brain and how that may contribute to Alzheimer's disease.

The Alzheimer’s Association is awarding the School of Medicine’s John Lukens, PhD, a 2018 Research Grant Award. This funding will support research critical to developing more-effective strategies for detecting/treating/preventing Alzheimer’s.

The grant award provides Dr. Lukens $149,820 over three years to study lymphatic dysfunction and inflammasomes as drivers of Alzheimer’s disease pathology.

The Alzheimer’s Association is the largest nonprofit funder of Alzheimer’s research in the world, having awarded more than $405 million to fund over 2,600 scientific investigations. The Association is currently investing more than $110 million in nearly 400 best-of-field active projects in 18 countries.

Alzheimer’s Research

Fostering a robust workforce of Alzheimer’s researchers is a major goal of the Alzheimer’s Association Research Grant and Fellowship Awards. The program funds primarily early-career scientists working on new ideas in Alzheimer’s research. The hope is that this will lead to future grant applications to government and other funding sources, including larger grants available through the Alzheimer’s Association. The Association makes it a high priority to support researchers from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups.

“The only way we will achieve a world without Alzheimer’s is through research. Funding Dr. Lukens not only supports this critical project, but is part of a broader Alzheimer’s Association effort to keep the best and brightest scientists working on this disease,” said Sue Friedman, president and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association Central and Western Virginia Chapter.

Lukens is an assistant professor in the Department of Neuroscience and UVA’s Center for Brain Immunology and Glia (BIG). In their studies, Lukens and his team will investigate how brain injury disrupts drainage of deleterious waste from the brain and identify how this can lead to Alzheimer’s disease.

“Extensive clinical and experimental evidence has identified brain injury as a prominent risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life,” Lukens said. “Unfortunately our mechanistic understanding of how brain injury predisposes individuals to AD [Alzheimer’s disease] is currently lacking. Our goal is to identify approaches to improve the disposal of neurotoxic material that builds up in the brain in head trauma and Alzheimer’s disease.”

The Research Grant and Fellowship Awards are part of the broader Alzheimer’s Association International Research Grant Program. Alzheimer’s Association funding has led to some of the most important research breakthroughs, including the first Alzheimer’s drug studies and the ability to visualize amyloid plaque buildup in the living brain.Joh

About Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. It kills more Americans than diabetes and more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association 2017 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures. By 2050, the number of people with Alzheimer’s may more than triple, to as many as 16 million, barring the development of medical breakthroughs to prevent, slow or stop the disease. More than 140,000 people have Alzheimer’s in Virginia and are cared for by over 458,000 caregivers.

For more information, visit the Alzheimer’s Association at

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