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Researcher at LIMR awarded NIH grant to discover new treatments for neurodegenerative diseases

November 1, 2017 Research News

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has recognized the groundbreaking research of Melvin Reichman, PhD, a principal investigator at the Lankenau Institute for Medical Research (LIMR), part of Main Line Health, by awarding him grant funding for his work on potential treatments for synucleinopathies, a family of neurodegenerative disorders that includes Parkinson’s disease and certain forms of Alzheimer disease and related dementias.

The three most common neurodegenerative diseases—Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer disease and ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease)—are all classified as protein-misfolding disorders. Misfolded proteins usually are repaired or discarded naturally by the body. But in patients with mutations in the alpha-synuclein gene (< 20% of cases), or spontaneously for unknown reasons, alpha-synuclein can misfold and then aggregate into clumps that accumulate over decades as Lewy bodies, which are believed to cause debilitating cognitive and motor disorders.

In outlining his approach and goals for his research, Dr. Reichman, who also serves as director of the LIMR Chemical Genomics Center, said: “An overarching challenge in medical neuroscience research is determining why alpha-synuclein and other brain proteins aggregate, and how protein aggregation causes neurotoxicity. We have developed an ultra-high throughput screening technology that is very sensitive to test mixtures of pharmaceuticals and bioactive natural products, including nutraceuticals, to find unexpected combinations that synergistically prevent the aggregation of alpha-synuclein.”

The research team, which includes key collaborators at the University of Florida, is aiming to deliver a promising new lead candidate or novel combination of approved drugs and/or nutraceuticals for treating Parkinson’s disease.

“The advantage of our new combinatorial screening technology is that it can potentially deliver combination drugs as clinical candidates having greater efficacy than single agents to prevent further protein misfolding, aggregation and, hopefully, ameliorate disease progression,” said Dr. Reichman. “Moreover, a combination of approved drugs or nutraceuticals can proceed to clinical trials faster than a brand-new chemical entity. At a minimum, the research will advance understanding of alpha-synuclein aggregation at the molecular level.”

Before joining LIMR, Dr. Reichman spent 20 years in industry, serving as a director of drug discovery at several major pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.

About Main Line Health

Founded in 1985, Main Line Health is a not-for-profit health system serving Philadelphia and its western suburbs. Main Line Health's commitment—to deliver advanced medicine for treating and curing disease, playing an important role in prevention and disease management as well as training physicians and other health care providers—reflects our intent to be the region's premier choice for clinical care, research, and education. A team of more than 10,000 employees, 3,000 nurses and 2,000 physicians care for patients throughout the Main Line Health System.

At Main Line Health's core are four of the region's most respected acute care hospitals—Lankenau Medical Center, Bryn Mawr Hospital, Paoli Hospital and Riddle Hospital—as well as one of the nation's premier facilities for rehabilitative medicine, Bryn Mawr Rehabilitation Hospital.

Main Line Health also includes Mirmont Treatment Center for drug and alcohol recovery; Main Line Health HomeCare & Hospice, which includes skilled home health care, hospice and home infusion services; Main Line Health Centers, primary and specialty care, lab and radiology, and other outpatient services located in Broomall, Collegeville, Concordville, Exton, King of Prussia and Newtown Square; Lankenau Institute for Medical Research, a biomedical research organization; and Main Line HealthCare, one of the region's largest multispecialty physician networks.

Main Line Health is the recipient of numerous awards for quality care, and service, including U.S. News & World Report's Best Hospitals, System Magnet® designation; the nation's highest distinction for nursing excellence and the Mid-Atlantic Alliance for Performance Excellence (MAAPE) Excellence Award. Main Line Health is committed to creating an environment of diversity, respect, equity, and inclusion, has proudly received awards in this area and has embraced the American Hospital Association's #123forEquity Pledge to Act to eliminate disparities in care. We are dedicated to advancing patient-centered care, education, and research to help patients stay healthy and live their best lives.

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About Lankenau Institute for Medical Research

Lankenau Institute for Medical Research (LIMR) is a nonprofit biomedical research institute located on the campus of Lankenau Medical Center and is part of Main Line Health. Founded in 1927, LIMR's mission is to improve human health and well-being. Faculty and staff are devoted to advancing innovative new approaches to formidable medical challenges, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal disorders and autoimmune diseases, such as diabetes and arthritis. LIMR's principal investigators conduct basic, preclinical and translational research, using their findings to explore ways to improve disease detection, diagnosis, treatment and prevention. They are committed to extending the boundaries of human health through technology transfer and training of the next generation of scientists and physicians.