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$9.07M grant will help University of Minnesota Health experts develop new treatments for Parkinson’s disease

The University of Minnesota was named an Udall Center of Excellence in Parkinson’s Disease Research and was awarded a $9.07 million grant over the next five years to improve the lives of patients with Parkinson’s disease.
A $9.07 million grant distributed over the next five years from the National Institutes of Health will allow a team of University of Minnesota researchers and physicians, led by Neurologist Jerrold Vitek, MD, PhD, to conduct research to advance deep brain stimulation treatment of Parkinson’s disease.

The University of Minnesota has received $9.07 million in grant funding from the National Institutes of Health to fund the research and development of new treatments for Parkinson’s disease.

In conjunction with the grant funding, the U of M was named an Udall Center of Excellence in Parkinson’s Disease Research. Nationally, only eight other centers have received that distinction, including Harvard University, Northwestern University, University of Pennsylvania and others.

The funding, distributed over the next five years, will allow a team of researchers and physicians, led by Neurologist Jerrold Vitek, MD, PhD, to focus on the brain circuitry changes that occur in patients with Parkinson’s disease. Vitek and his multidisciplinary team will leverage this understanding to improve deep brain stimulation (DBS) and other therapies to treat Parkinson’s disease.

DBS, a type of neuromodulation, uses electrodes implanted in a patient’s brain to deliver stimulation that helps reduce many Parkinson’s symptoms, including tremors. Though University of Minnesota Health experts are currently using DBS to treat Parkinson’s, epilepsy and essential tremor, they believe the treatment might have broader utility as a therapy for other neurological disorders.

Learn more about deep brain stimulation for Parkinson’s disease.

“At the University of Minnesota we have a world-class multidisciplinary team to treat patients with Parkinson’s disease,” Vitek said. “Because of our significant experience and expertise, we are able to take on this complex and often debilitating movement disorder with a goal of improving patient’s lives.”

The University of Minnesota’s Udall grant will focus on three primary Parkinson’s disease research projects: 

  • Project 1 will study the underlying changes in brain circuitry that affects patients with Parkinson’s disease by using cutting-edging brain imaging and intraoperative techniques that Dr. Vitek pioneered.
  • Project 2 will develop new stimulation approaches in a region of the brain called the pallidum that is important for controlling voluntary movement.
  • Project 3 will also explore the effects of novel stimulation approaches on brain circuitry that mediates movement problems associated with Parkinson’s disease.

Watch University of Minnesota experts and physicians discuss the importance of the Udall Center grant and designation. 

The Udall Center’s multidisciplinary approach draws on faculty expertise from across the University of Minnesota Medical School, the College of Science and Engineering and the School of Public Health. Together, faculty will translate basic science findings and innovative technologies into new treatments for Parkinson’s disease.

The work of the Udall Center has already attracted international attention. In late October, a delegation of physicians from China will visit the new center and observe a deep brain stimulation case to learn more about the procedure.

The University of Minnesota’s Department of Neurology continues to offer new clinical trials for Parkinson's disease and other neurological disorders. For example, the department is a site for the national Phase III trial testing Boston Scientific's new DBS system.

"The Udall grant is a testament to the world-class team Dr. Vitek has assembled," said University of Minnesota Medical School Dean Brooks Jackson, MD, MBA. "By bringing a multidisciplinary approach to this research, Dr. Vitek and his team have put the University of Minnesota in a position to be a leader in advancing science and hopefully developing new treatments and cures for Parkinson's disease."

Learn more about our Udall Center designation.

“Legislative support through the MnDrive Brain Conditions initiative helped set the stage for the Udall Center,” said Vitek. “We are especially grateful to the people of Minnesota and the state legislature. We are committed to serving as a resource for patients and their families throughout the state as a return on this investment.”