Donation Sparks Research Into Understudied Form of Dementia

Research into priority areas of dementia is made possible at our center by generous donor gifts. This past winter, we received a generous donation from the family of one of our research participants to further study a less common type of dementia, frontotemporal dementia or FTD.

Our research participant had inherited FTD from her father. After she died from the disease last winter, her family gifted the donations made at the funeral to our center to further study frontotemporal dementia.

FTD accounts for 5% of all dementia cases in the United States. The primary course of the disease damages the frontal or temporal lobes of the brain which results in significant changes in personality, behavior, and language ability. FTD is a unique dementia in that it targets younger individuals, typically between ages 40 and 65. It is also highly heritable. Approximately 40% of individuals with FTD have an affected family member.

A major research emphasis at our center is to study the less common types of dementia, including the causes and treatments of the various forms of FTD. Director Dr. Henry Paulson’s lab directly studies FTD at the molecular, cellular, and human neuropathological levels. These new funds will allow his laboratory to:

  • Explore the biological pathways by which harmful gene products in a specific type of FTD are handled in neurons and other cells
  • Understand why a class of proteins known as ubiquilins are associated with FTD
  • Generate critically important genetic information on the many FTD brains donated at the Michigan Brain Bank. This genetic information increases the value of these priceless brain tissues for researchers as they seek to understand the causes of FTD.

We are grateful to this participant and their family for generously supporting our research. We look forward to furthering our research in FTD due to their gift, and to move the field forward in our understanding of this set of diseases.

Donations big and small are important to our work as a center and to further dementia research. If you are interested in contributing to our center, please visit alzheimers.med.umich.edu/support-us to learn of opportunities, or contact Allison Clark, Assistant Director of Development, Neurosciences, at ajmayer@umich.edu or 734-763-1638.