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Estate gift supports two tracks of leading Alzheimer's disease research

It’s an exciting time in Alzheimer’s disease research at the University of Minnesota.

The world-renowned Nun Study, initiated here in 1986, returned to the University in March after nearly 20 years away and is still netting key insights into Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders. And the leading-edge research conducted in the University’s N. Bud Grossman Center for Memory Research and Care continues to gain momentum as it shifts its focus to prevention.

Advancing these initiatives is a gift of more than $1.4 million from the estate of the late Douglas Mohl, which is being split between the Nun Study and the Grossman Center.

A University alumnus and Gopher fan, Mohl died suddenly last year at age 68. Mohl’s mother was treated at the University for Alzheimer’s disease, and he was so grateful for the care she received that he decided to include Alzheimer’s research at the University in his estate plans.

Today, Mohl’s gift is already being put to good use.

“This generous gift will provide us with the resources needed as we prepare for a new and innovative study with this unique population,” says Kelvin O. Lim, M.D., director of the Nun Study and professor and vice chair for research in the Department of Psychiatry. He also holds Drs. T. J. and Ella M. Arneson Land-Grant Chair in Human Behavior.

During the past two decades, about 700 nun volunteers from seven U.S. provinces of the School Sisters of Notre Dame have contributed to a better understanding of healthy brain aging via their journals, personal and medical histories, cognitive functioning tests, and dissection of their brains after death.

Researchers say the nuns are an ideal group to study because of their homogeneous and active lifestyle—many are involved in education and service well into their 90s.

At the Grossman Center, director Karen Hsiao Ashe, M.D., Ph.D., and her team have made remarkable progress in understanding the underlying mechanisms of Alzheimer’s disease that lead to impaired memory.

From the same laboratory that created two types of mice—one that models the later stages of Alzheimer’s and one that models the earlier symptoms of pre-dementia—to study the disease comes a new research focus: prevention.

“This gift will enable the Grossman Center to pursue clinical research collaborations with scientists at multiple institutions that will accelerate the timeline to prevention,” says Ashe, who holds the Edmund Wallace Tulloch and Anna Marie Tulloch Chairs in Neurology and Neuroscience.

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