CONTACT: JENNIFER BROWN
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-9917; fax(319) 384-4638
Release: May 9, 2001
NOTE TO EDITORS: Please note that two of the co-directors of the UI HD Center
of Excellence have very similar names: Henry Paulson and Jane Paulsen
UI Center of Excellence for Huntington's Disease hosts dinner
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa Huntington's Disease Center of
Excellence recently hosted its first annual "Celebration of Hope"
fund-raising dinner to benefit its programs. Nearly 150 people attended the
dinner including UI College of Medicine researchers, individuals and families
with Huntington's disease (HD), community members and representatives of several
The UI is one of only 17 HD Centers of Excellence. The designation, awarded
to the UI by the Huntington's Disease Society of America (HDSA) last May,
was based on a nationwide competition. The society provides Centers of Excellence
with funding and infrastructure to support state-of-the-art multidisciplinary
care for patients with HD and their families. In the year since it was recognized
as a Center of Excellence, the UI has provided care for nearly 200 individuals
with HD and their families. This month is HD Awareness month as designated
by the HDSA.
Huntington's disease is an inherited neurodegenerative disease caused by
a mutation in a single gene, which codes for the protein huntingtin. The disease
typically strikes people in their 30s and 40s who have the genetic defect,
and progresses over a 15 to 20 year period, robbing patients of their ability
to think, judge correctly, control their emotions and perform coordinated
tasks. Currently, there is no cure for this disease, which affects 30,000
Americans and places another 200,000 at risk.
Three "Distinguished Leadership" Awards were presented at the
dinner, honoring individuals who have made significant contributions in the
areas of medicine, business, the arts, philanthropy and social services in
center-of-excellence communities. The awardees were Robert P. Kelch, M.D.,
UI College of Medicine Dean; Willard L. "Sandy" Boyd, former UI
president, and his wife, Susan Boyd; and W. Richard Summerwill, recently retired
President and CEO of Iowa State Bank and Trust Company.
UI research aimed at finding treatments for HD is a multidisciplinary effort
encompassing the work of scientists and physicians in the departments of neurology,
psychiatry and psychology. The investigations cover all aspects of research
from basic science to clinical trials. The UI center has three co-directors:
Henry L. Paulson, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of neurology; Robert L.
Rodnitzky, M.D., professor of neurology; and Jane S. Paulsen, Ph.D., associate
professor of psychiatry, neurology and psychology.
Paulson's lab uses cell models and animal studies to investigate the behavior
of the altered huntingtin protein in brain cells. The researchers hope to
discover the underlying molecular causes of neurodegeneration in HD and other
"We hope that by understanding the mechanism of neurodegeneration,
we will be able to identify pathways that we can alter to prevent or slow
the progression of the disease," Paulson said.
Work in Paulsen's lab is focused on identifying subtle neuropsychological
characteristics of Huntington's disease in its earliest stages. Knowledge
of these so-called biomarkers will allow researchers to more precisely monitor
the progress of the disease from its early stages and allow them to determine
whether new treatments are effective in slowing the disease progression.
Rodnitzky has been actively involved in numerous clinical trials of potential
treatments for movement disorders such as HD and Parkinson's Disease.
"Being designated as a Center of Excellence by the HDSA puts us on
the national stage for research against this disease," Paulson said.
"When new therapies emerge, we will be one of the places that has the
chance to evaluate those treatments. That will be a real benefit to our patient
For more information about the UI HD Clinic, HD research at the UI, or to
schedule a visit, contact program coordinator, Elizabeth Penziner, at (319)
353-4307. Genetic testing for Huntington's disease is also provided at the
UI Hospitals and Clinics. Genetic counseling, which includes neurological
and psychological evaluations, is provided to individuals considering testing.
For more information about genetic testing for HD or to schedule an appointment,
contact Cathy Evers at 1-800-260-2065.
For more information about the disease or the Huntington's Disease Society
of America go to www.hdsa.org
or call 800-345-HDSA.
University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between
the UI College of Medicine and the UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient
care, medical education and research programs and services they provide. Visit
UI Health Care online at www.uihealthcare.com.