April, 2003 — Each week, Rotarians from clubs throughout North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia empty their pockets of loose money in the hopes that their individual donations will, collectively, bring about a different kind of change. Recently, officials from Rotary districts in the three states awarded a research grant of $250,000 to researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine for their work on the prevention of oxidative stress damage – “brain rust” – present in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.

With the award of this grant, Rotarians will have given over $850,000 since 1999 from their Coins for Alzheimer’s Research Trust (CART) fund for the research and cure of Alzheimer’s and Alzheimer’s-related diseases.

“Funding from sources like the Rotarians allow us to jump-start scientific research on the many targets that we think are the molecular pathways to curing Alzheimer’s,” said John Trojanowski, MD, Ph.D., director of Penn’s Alzheimer’s Disease Center. “It is remarkable that just a few citizens can band together to recognize a need and, with deliberation and foresight, deliver major awards on the level of a large foundation or government agency.”

According to Trojanowski, Penn received the award primarily because of the work of Domenico Pratico, MD, assistant professor in Penn’s Department of Pharmacology. His work on isoprostanes, fatty acids that are formed as the result of free radical damage, have opened up a new avenue of promising research in which drugs created to prevent oxidative stress may halt Alzheimer’s.

“Funding is a real limiting factor, and the Rotarians are indeed taking a visionary approach in seeking out funding projects at the preliminary stages of research,” said Trojanowski. “While I cannot say just how much it will cost to cure Alzheimer’s, research in the last decade has identified many compelling and novel drug targets. And the faster we pursue each one through increased investment in drug discovery, the faster we will get to meaningful therapies.” – Article abstracted with permission of Greg Lester; Science Writer at the Department of Public Affairs PENN Medicine