SAN ANTONIO, Sept. 24, 2021 /PRNewswire-PRWeb/ -- The
University of Texas Health Science
Center at San Antonio and The
University of Texas Rio Grande Valley,
working in close collaboration, have been announced as a new
National Institute on Aging (NIA)-designated Alzheimer's Disease
Research Center (ADRC).
The South Texas partners are
joining 32 other centers in the national network, which the NIA
established in 1984 to promote research collaboration, encourage
data sharing and open science, and offer information and clinical
trials for patients and families affected by Alzheimer's and
related dementias. The NIA is part of the National Institutes of
Health (NIH), and ADRCs are NIH Centers of Excellence. No other
Texas institution or consortium is
an ADRC currently.
"Texas is the third most
populous state in the country, has the second highest number of
deaths related to Alzheimer's disease, and is home to a Mexican
American Hispanic population that is among the fastest growing U.S.
demographic segments," said Sudha
Seshadri, MD, professor of neurology at UT Health Science
Center San Antonio and founding director of its Glenn Biggs
Institute for Alzheimer's and Neurodegenerative Diseases. "This
federal designation by NIA will be transformational as we seek
cures and provide the best possible care, based on the most
up-to-date knowledge and technology, to the families of
South Texas and throughout our
Gladys Maestre, MD, PhD, UTRGV
professor of neurosciences, is director of the Rio Grande Valley
Alzheimer's Disease Resource Center for Minority Aging Research
(RGV AD-RCMAR), the first federally funded Center of Excellence at the university.
"What truly distinguishes UTRGV is our focus on the future and
our willingness to take risks to shape the future," Dr. Maestre
said. "Alzheimer´s disease takes a higher toll among Hispanics, and
through the partnership with the team in San Antonio and the network of other ADRCs, we
will be positioned to make discoveries needed to change the
trajectory of pain caused by the disease."
UT Health Science Center San Antonio established the Glenn Biggs
Institute with Dr. Seshadri's arrival in December 2017. Starting a couple of years
earlier, the institution had raised more than $40 million from the community for a
comprehensive center to serve families impacted by Alzheimer's and
other neurodegenerative diseases. Community leaders Glenn and Ann Biggs were the inspiration. After
his Alzheimer's diagnosis, the couple struggled to find such care.
Mr. Biggs died in May 2015.
"There is currently no means to prevent or cure Alzheimer's
disease," UT Health Science Center President William L. Henrich, MD, MACP, said. "It is a
condition that not only devastates the patient, but also family and
friends as they helplessly witness the inevitable decline. Glenn
would be so pleased that this prestigious NIH Center of Excellence
has been awarded to help the families of our region and the state
that he loved."
"Both UTRGV and UT Health Science Center San Antonio put
together this program with a great deal of philanthropic support
from the local community that was affected by this disease, as well
as with state and university support," Dr. Seshadri said. "This NIH
Center of Excellence designation is a national recognition of their
UTRGV's RGV AD-RCMAR was established in 2018 with funding from
the National Institute on Aging. Its location on the South Texas border with Mexico and its predominant Hispanic population
affords the center close and unique perspectives.
It leads initiatives across UTRGV colleges and administrative
departments to work with patient advocacy groups, community-based
organizations, private and public health care providers, state and
federal agencies, and other academic institutions to enhance the
diversity of the workforce in minority aging research.
Dr. Maestre said the growing group of diverse researchers are
studying the disproportionate health and economic burdens of
Alzheimer's disease in Hispanics, and hope to accelerate
cutting-edge research programs, interventions and health care
services for the prevention, care and treatment of dementia
tailored to Hispanics and health care providers in region.
UTRGV President Guy Bailey, PhD,
said this collaboration between UT Health Science Center San
Antonio and UTRGV is a key step in expanding research opportunities
that will help enhance the quality of life for countless Hispanics
in South Texas.
"As a region, we share a family of cultural, physical and
societal ties that make the formation of this NIA-designated
Alzheimer's Disease Research Center so important," Dr. Bailey said.
"We are grateful to the National Institute on Aging, our colleagues
at UT Health Science Center San Antonio, and all the researchers,
faculty and staff who have worked so hard for more than a year to
create this important center."
The new designation's impact
As an ADRC, the South Texas
center immediately becomes "part of the national conversation," Dr.
"Our research discoveries and the insights we learn from our
patients and families about what is important to them will become
part of a very large national dataset for ADRC scientists and
health policy experts to use, and we will be part of shaping the
research as well as rapidly learning from the wisdom of all our
colleagues at the other centers. It will be a game-changer that
will take our research and care to the next level," Dr. Seshadri
"The Biggs Institute is firmly committed to finding answers for
Alzheimer's and related dementias, as evidenced by the launch of
our Brain Bank, which includes
donated autopsy brains and spinal cord tissue," said Robert Hromas, MD, professor and dean of the Joe
R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of
Medicine at UT Health Science Center San Antonio. "Our
investigators are leveraging these resources to find new treatments
for brain aging and degeneration."
Community engagement is a prime emphasis of every ADRC.
Michael Hocker, MD, MHS, dean of
the UTRGV School of Medicine, said he is excited about the
opportunities this new collaborative research center will bring,
not just for faculty and staff, but also for medical students
looking to pursue an area of specialty research into the impact of
Alzheimer's disease on the area's predominantly Hispanic
"UTRGV is committed to transforming the health of the region,
and this is another step we will take to improve the aging
population who suffer from Alzheimer's in South Texas. We will conduct much of this
clinical care and research at our soon-to-open Institute of
Neuroscience in Harlingen, where
we will evaluate and treat patients with neurologic conditions
including dementia, Alzheimer's and other neuropsychiatric
diagnoses. We also will conduct clinical trials and other research
to improve neurologic and behavioral conditions," Dr. Hocker said.
"This research could have significant impact for the Hispanic
community, South Texas and, we
believe, well beyond."
Dr. Maestre said advanced research in dementia and minority
aging is key to reducing health disparities among Hispanics in
South Texas, and the collaboration
with UT Health Science Center San Antonio is a major step
"By working together, we are building infrastructure and a
system for data collection that will attract and support diverse
expert multidisciplinary researchers," she said, "so we can expand
this important research aimed at reducing the impacts of
Alzheimer's disease on families in South
Texas and beyond."
An under-studied population
Combining the strengths of two Alzheimer's disease institutes
into one ADRC offers many advantages. For one, research and care
outreach to families will extend from San
Antonio and surrounding areas to McAllen, Harlingen, Brownsville and all parts of the Lower Rio
Grande Valley of Texas, and to
each county in between. The entire region is majority Hispanic in
"Hispanics are an under-studied population in dementia
research," said Dr. Seshadri, a physician-researcher who has
authored many genetic studies of large populations. "Although our
center will study all people, we are in an ideal location to place
a strong focus on Hispanic families. Newly studied populations
enable us to find new genes and new treatment targets that are of
relevance to people throughout the world. We will also continue to
train the next generation of researchers from diverse backgrounds,
and to translate our findings in culturally relevant ways to the
community, including, most importantly, affected individuals and
their caregivers. We thank the wonderful people of San Antonio and South Texas whose vision, generosity and
support have brought us to this point; we will continue to partner
with them to learn more and better ways to prevent, treat and
support our community, our patients and their families."
NIA-designated ADRCs serve as major sources of discovery into
the nature of Alzheimer's disease and related dementias and into
the development of more effective approaches to prevention,
diagnosis, care and therapy. The South
Texas center was funded by NIH grant P30AG066546.
ABOUT UT HEALTH SCIENCE CENTER
The University of Texas Health
Science Center at San Antonio,
also referred to as UT Health San Antonio, is one of the country's
leading health sciences universities and is designated as a
Hispanic-Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education.
With missions of teaching, research, patient care and community
engagement, its schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health
professions and graduate biomedical sciences have graduated 39,700
alumni who are leading change, advancing their fields, and renewing
hope for patients and their families throughout South Texas and the world. To learn about the
many ways "We make lives better®," visit
Stay connected with UT Health San Antonio on Facebook, Twitter,
LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube.
The Glenn Biggs Institute for Alzheimer's and Neurodegenerative
Diseases is dedicated to providing comprehensive dementia care
while advancing treatment through clinical trials and research. In
addition to patient care and research, the Biggs Institute partners
with the School of Nursing at UT Health Science Center San Antonio
to offer the Caring for the Caregiver program.
The University of Texas Rio Grande
Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the
first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided
the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio
Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it
possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent
University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to The
University of Texas System and other
UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites
throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach,
Brownsville (formerly The
University of Texas at Brownsville
campus), Edinburg (formerly The
University of Texas-Pan American
McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio
Grande City and South Padre
Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution,
enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of
Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.
Will Sansom, The University of Texas Health Science Center at
San Antonio, 210-567-2579,
SOURCE The University of Texas
Health Science Center at San