UF neuroscientists awarded grants to advance Lewy body dementia research

By Todd Taylor

Lewy body dementia is the second-most common form of neurodegenerative dementia in the U.S. behind Alzheimer’s disease.

To help combat this growing health issue, which affects over 1 million individuals in the U.S., the Harry T. Mangurian Jr. Foundation supports the Collaboration for Pilot Studies in Lewy Body Dementia, an annual research pilot award program at the University of Florida. This year, one-year pilot grants were awarded to two UF investigators conducting pre-clinical research into Lewy body dementia.

Dr. C
Dr. Chakrabarty

Paramita Chakrabarty, Ph.D., an assistant professor of neuroscience, was awarded $75,000 from the Harry T. Mangurian Jr. Foundation Lewy Body Dementia Research Fund to lead the project “Peripheral inflammation and DLB: a pilot study in a rodent model.”

Chakrabarty’s study will test a hypothesis that severe infection, resulting in sepsis, could be related to worsened outcomes in Lewy body dementia.

“It is staggering to consider how many dementia patients may develop premature cognitive decline after suffering from severe infection and sepsis,” Chakrabarty said. “Understanding the factors that lead to mental decline in older patients with incipient dementia could open newer avenues for effective therapeutic interventions and improved symptom management.”

Dr. L
Dr. LaVoie

Matthew LaVoie, Ph.D., the Fixel Family Chair in Neurology and Neuroscience, was awarded $50,000 from the Harry T. Mangurian Jr. Foundation Lewy body dementia research fund to lead the project “Leveraging genetic risk of LBD to reveal mechanisms of its mixed pathology.”

LaVoie’s study will use patient-derived stem cells in an effort to gain an understanding of how mutations in the GBA1 gene are related to forms of dementia including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. These mutations are also thought to be the greatest genetic risk factor for Lewy body dementia.

“Translating genetic risk to mechanistic insight into disease etiology may identify new opportunities to develop disease-modifying therapies in the future,” said LaVoie, co-director of UF’s Center for Translational Research in Neurodegenerative Disease.

Dr. Laboissonniere
Dr. Laboissonniere

LaVoie’s grant also includes an additional $5,000 in trainee funding from UF’s McKnight Brain Institute to support Lauren Laboissonniere, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher in UF’s department of neurology.

“We are grateful to the Harry T. Mangurian Jr. Foundation for providing support for researchers to conduct transformational pilot research in Lewy body dementia. These two projects were selected from a competitive field and attest to the quality of Lewy body dementia research occurring at the University of Florida,” said Melissa Armstrong, M.D., M.Sc., director of the Dorothy Mangurian Clinical-Research Headquarters for Lewy Body Dementia at the Norman Fixel Institute for Neurological Diseases at UF Health.