New Neuroscience Center to Improve Treatments for Diseases and Disorders

Take the fine-tuned skill required to perform brain surgery. Combine this with the complex knowledge and technology that allow researchers to count neurons. Then add the ability to observe how the tiny brain cells respond to potential treatments. These powerful capacities and more are consolidated in the University of Missouri School of Medicine’s new Center for Translational Neuroscience.

The center will house a variety of researchers who will work together toward therapies that target such prevalent health problems as Alzheimer’s disease and stroke. The center occupies 9,000 square feet of renovated lab space on the seventh floor of MU’s Medical Sciences Building. The space will serve dual purposes – both as a home base for research teams and as the site of four new core facilities for neurosurgery, cell culture, neurobehavior and imaging analysis.

“The key value of this new facility is its ability to bring interdisciplinary researchers together in the area of neuroscience,” said Jamal Ibdah, MD, PhD, senior associate dean for research and director of MU’s Institute for Clinical and Translational Science. “Working in close proximity should help elevate researchers’ level of discovery, as well as benefit our educational programs for budding scientists.”

The new space will be home to faculty members from many programs on campus, including biochemistry, pathology and anatomical sciences, biological sciences, psychological sciences, neurology and neurosurgery. Basic scientists and clinical researchers will study not only age-related neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s but also brain tumors, infectious diseases of the nervous system, autoimmunity and neurodevelopmental disorders.

The experts whose labs are housed in the center will serve as consultants and support teams for other scientists involved in related research, said Douglas Anthony, MD, PhD, director of the Center for Translational Neursoscience and chair of pathology and anatomical sciences.

“With these facilities, we’ll be able to accomplish more and become more competitive for national grants and contracts,” Anthony said. “We’re creating a community of collaboration that makes everyone more effective at improving health for patients.”

Grace Sun, PhD, an MU professor of biochemistry and pathology, said the resources housed in the four cores will be essential to the continued success of her studies. She directs an Alzheimer’s research program that has been supported by more than $10 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health.

“Alzheimer’s is a dreadful disease affecting more than five million people in the U.S., 10 percent of people over 65 and 40 percent of people over 80 years old,” Sun said. “We’re trying to understand the neurotransmission pathways that damage memory and cognitive functions and look into compounds that may help protect the brain cells and make them healthier.”

Sun is developing strategies to protect neurons in the brain from oxidative stress, which causes damage that is thought to contribute to Alzheimer’s and other forms of neurodegeneration. Her lab will look at potentially protective compounds — such as those found in grapes, berries and curry powder — on a cellular level. Her team will then observe neurons in culture to determine how well the compounds inhibit damage. Researchers will then investigate promising compounds in transgenic mice, which have plaques in the brain similar to patients with Alzheimer’s.

Renovations to create the new Center for Translational Neuroscience began in September 2009 and were supported by $1.4 million in federal funding for construction of medical research facilities.

Information about this event is also available on the MU School of Medicine calendar at