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Burke Medical Research Institute Scientist Awarded $500,000 Grant to Study Huntington’s Disease

Released July 23, 2012

WHITE PLAINS, NY – July 23, 2012 – Gary Gibson, Ph.D., director of the Laboratory for
Mitochondrial Biology and Metabolic Dysfunction in Neurodegeneration at the Burke Medical Research Institute, has been awarded a two-year, $500,000 grant by CHDI Foundation to study Huntington’s Disease. CHDI is a private, not-for-profit research organization that works with a global network of scientists to discover therapies that slow the progression of Huntington’s. After observing the work he has been doing with Alzheimer’s disease, CHDI tapped Dr. Gibson to conduct a study specific to this devastating condition.

“The brain is very dependent on oxygen and glucose (sugar),” explained Dr. Gibson, who is also a professor of Neuroscience at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. “Our research shows that many age-related neurodegenerative diseases may share similar fundamental mechanisms of damage to the mitochondria (sub-cellular particles that are vital for the brain’s use of oxygen and glucose), reducing the brain’s ability to use glucose and oxygen. This either causes the disease or is a critical, clinically relevant change that can serve as a therapeutic target.”

The CHDI-funded study will be based on the premise that similar abnormalities in the mitochondria found in age-related neurodegenerative diseases underlie Huntington’s disease as well. “A better understanding of the role of mitochondria in Huntington’s is important for the discovery of new therapeutic approaches,” Dr. Gibson noted. “If they are found to be abnormal, drugs can be developed to correct those abnormalities.”

Huntington’s disease is a genetic disorder that affects an estimated 30,000 people in the U.S. It affects both men and women, in all ethnic groups, and approximately 200,000 Americans are at risk of inheriting the disease from an affected parent. Those who have a parent with Huntington’s disease have a 50 percent chance of inheriting the defective huntingtin or HTT gene.

"To be hand-picked to conduct this study speaks volumes about the importance of Dr. Gibson’s work,” said Rajiv R. Ratan, M.D, Ph.D., executive director of the Burke Medical Research Institute and professor of Neurology and Neuroscience at Weill Cornell Medical College. “It shows that his work has potential application for not only Huntington’s disease, but a host of age-related neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.”

Funded by grants and private donations, Burke’s Medical Research Institute is involved in cutting-edge basic, translational and clinical research, providing new knowledge that can become the basis for future rehabilitation therapies in the areas of stroke, traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury. The Institute has recently added new research laboratories in the areas of pain, vision restoration and motor recovery. The Institute strives to assist patients to recover more fully, not just to decrease disability, which has been the focus of mainstream rehabilitation research historically.

Burke Rehabilitation Hospital is a private, not-for-profit, acute rehabilitation hospital. Founded in 1915, it is the only hospital in Westchester County dedicated solely to rehabilitation medicine. Burke offers both inpatient and outpatient programs for those who have experienced a disabling illness, traumatic injury or joint replacement surgery. Burke is both an acute rehabilitation hospital and medical research center. Burke’s world-renowned doctors and therapists provide state-of-the-art-treatment, while its research scientists at the Burke Medical Research Institute explore the frontiers of neurological and rehabilitation medicine. All share the Burke mission to ensure that every patient makes the fullest possible recovery from illness or injury regardless of their ability to pay.

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