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UNM plans center for Alzheimer’s disease

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — University of New Mexico leaders on Thursday announced the launch of a new Memory and Aging Center to advance research and clinical services for a growing number of New Mexicans with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.

UNM eventually wants to earn a National Institutes of Health designation for the center, said Dr. Gary Rosenberg, the center’s director.

NIH today recognizes 31 Alzheimer’s disease centers in the U.S., but none in the Mountain West states. The designation will require UNM Health Sciences Center to increase the size of this patient population.

“The goal is to improve research and really improve clinical care,” Rosenberg said. “They go hand in hand.”

The center, which launched on Jan. 1, is also intended to extend research and clinical services to a wide spectrum of dementia illnesses in addition to Alzheimer’s, he said.

The center plans to announce a site for its clinical services by March. Ongoing research will continue at Pete and Nancy Domenici Hall on the UNM campus.

The center’s initial budget of about $1.7 million a year will come from a combination of NIH research grants and UNM support, Rosenberg said. UNM plans to hire an undetermined number of medical personnel to staff the center.

An estimated 36,000 New Mexicans today live with Alzheimer’s disease, with that number expected to grow to 53,000 by 2025, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, New Mexico chapter.

An additional 100,000 New Mexicans serve as caregivers for people with Alzheimer’s.

Dr. Paul Roth, UNM chancellor for health sciences “is interested in opening a center that will provide research and clinical services for this large population of patients who are underserved right now,” Rosenberg said.

The center will allow UNM to pull together research, education and clinical services now scattered across the UNM campus, said Dr. Janice Knoefel, a UNM geriatric neurologist.

“The need is out there, and we know we have good faculty members,” Knoefel said. “Let’s get everybody together and move forward with a coherent, collaborative effort.”

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