The Neuropathology Core (NPC) of the ADRC will perform autopsies on individuals evaluated in the Center, and other consented patients with neurodegenerative diseases who expire at UCLA Medical Center, or whose bodies are transferred here for that purpose. Patients examined will include 'controls'followed in the ADRC and control subjects that come through the UCLA-CHS autopsy service;in the latter group, a brief telephonic questionnaire will be administered to family members/next of kin to assess whether an autopsied individual had been cognitively normal during life (this is a new initiative of the core). In addition to providing appropriate diagnoses on these patients (based upon state-of-the-art immunohistochemical studies), tissues and CSF from all possible autopsies will be rapidly frozen, stored, and made available to investigators doing research in Alzheimer disease and related disorders. The NPC is committed to providing research materials to Centers doing excellent research, but who lack availability of well-characterized autopsy tissues/fluids. These resources also will be distributed to local investigators requiring access to tissues. Autopsy brain specimens from patients with AD, non-AD dementias and controls are an important resource to provide a 'gold standard'diagnosis in a given patient, and can assist in the evaluation of treatment efficacy or unwanted complications. As biomarkers of disease progression are increasingly used to monitor disease progression during life, as well as responses to therapy, understanding the morphoanatomic correlates of these biomarkers (as measures of disease severity) becomes crucial. One group of biomarkers, viz. new neuroimaging techniques that label brain amyloids, needs to be validated in autopsy brain specimens, and NPC is providing valuable material for such a study. The NPC has a wide tissue distribution network and disseminates tissue to many investigators. The NPC supports projects at UCLA, collaborates on national studies (e.g., GWAS), and encourages international collaborative studies. The NPC is committed to developing new methods (e.g. tissue micro-array) to facilitate high throughput analysis and expression profiles of new molecules relevant to neurodegeneration, which are discovered in experimental systems, e.g. those using Drosophila and rodents. Finally, the NPC is committed to supporting other Cores and Projects within the ADRC through assistance with developing protocols, teaching, conferences, and providing tissue and neuropathologic data.
Confirming the cause of a dementing illness by studying the brain at autopsy is a crucial (and final) step in illuminating how the disease has affected brain structure. It also allows researchers who have performed novel research in experimental systems, but now want to test their ideas in human tissues, to work with brain tissue samples. Finally, the examination of autopsy specimens can show what may have been imaged during life, and why a treatment may/may not have worked.
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