What We Do
The Roskamp Institute, located in Sarasota, Florida, is devoted to understanding causes
and finding cures for neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders and addictions.
The Institute utilizes a broad range of highly advanced scientific approaches to understand
the causes of, and potential therapies for, these disorders. From this work novel treatments
developed by the Roskamp Institute are in clinical trials in Europe and the U.S.
- Alzheimer's Disease Research
The main goal of the Roskamp Institute is to discover new and effective treatments for Alzheimer's
disease.Previous work by the Institute’s lead researchers (Dr. Michael Mullan and Dr. Fiona Crawford)
has shown that certain genetic variations may cause or predispose humans to Alzheimer's disease.
These genetic variations have given scientists clues about the Alzheimer's disease process.
In particular these studies led to the identification of a small protein called ß(beta)-amyloid
as central to the disease process. Beta-amyloid accumulates in all cases of Alzheimer's disease and,
as it does so, neurons are damaged leading to their malfunction, which is reflected as memory loss
and other cognitive change. This process, once begun, is naturally relentless, but much evidence
suggests that if ß-amyloid could be prevented from accumulating, the disease would be halted.
Much of the research conducted by the Institute involves experimentation on ways to prevent ß-amyloid
from accumulating and damaging the brain. This work has led directly to the testing of new treatments
for Alzheimer’s Disease which represent potentially critical advances in the fight against the disease.
The term “ inflammaging “ recognizes the observation that many disease of aging are intimately
associated with inflammation.Researchers at the Roskamp Institute are investigating the role of
inflammation in aging and, in particular, in diseases like Alzheimer's Disease. Research has shown
that specific inflammatory chemicals play a key role in promoting the toxic production of the
protein amyloid and that this, in turn, promotes more inflammation. Thus, Alzheimer's Disease is
the consequence of a destructive cycle of inflammation where inflammatory chemicals cause the
release of each other which result in damage and finally death to neurons in the process.
Treatments aimed at reducing inflammation can reverse this destructive cycle and new chemicals
being developed at the Roskamp Institute are providing promising data that inflammaging can be
halted and perhaps reversed. Please visit our
webpage for inflammaging research.
Roskamp Institute researchers are investigating the contribution of various vascular factors
that occur in the brain that can both trigger and promote the pathology of Alzheimer's disease.
In particular, they are focusing on the biological activity of the Alzheimer's disease ß-amyloid
peptides in cerebral blood vessels. They have shown that the ß-amyloid peptides can constrict
human cerebrovessels and that the cerebral blood flow in transgenic mice (that spontaneously
development Alzheimer’s Disease) is reduced (see figure 1 below), possibly leading to neuronal
damage and memory loss by impairing normal nutrient delivery and waste removal in the brain.
The Roskamp Institute researchers have now dissected the molecular events at the origin of the
vasoactive effects of ß-amyloid peptides and are testing the ability of various drugs to counteract
the effect of ß-amyloid in the vasculature in order to develop new therapies against Alzheimer's
disease. This work is also providing new knowledge regarding the mechanisms controlling the growth
of blood vessels. A spin off of this work is that in experimental studies the beta-amyloid protein
has been shown to successfully inhibit the growth of cancers by strangling their blood supplies.
This is particularly important for the design of anti-cancerous drugs since the growth of tumors
is dependent on the formation of new blood vessels that allow the delivery of nutrients and oxygen
to the growing tumor cells.
- Drug Demand Reduction Research
The Roskamp Institute was the recipient of a contract from the Counterdrug Technology Assessment
Center of the Office of National Drug Control Policy for research on the genomics and proteomics
of drug abuse. Advanced proteomic technologies have thus been developed at the Institute and have
been used with genomic technologies to analyze the genomes and proteomes from diverse tissue sources.
Comparative genomic and proteomic analysis of drug-exposed versus non-exposed cells and their
sub-cellular fractions is underway. The primary goal of this work is to explore the etiology of the
addictions, to identify biomarkers of drug abuse, and to identify new compounds with potentially
- Traumatic Brain Injury Research
In studies that complement the extensive Alzheimer's research of the Roskamp Institute,
other aspects of neuronal dysfunction, degeneration and repair are being examined through
work on Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). With over 1 million traumatic brain injuries in the US
each year, TBI is a common and major health problem. An estimated 5.3 million Americans are
living today with a TBI-related disability.
Through collaborations with the Tampa Veterans Administration and the Defense and Veterans
Head Injury Program, Institute researchers previously demonstrated a role for the
Apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene in mediating recovery after TBI. Cognitive recovery was poorer in
TBI sufferers carrying one or two copies of the e4 form of the APOE gene (the same form that
contributes risk for Alzheimer's disease) versus those that carried no copies of that form.
In order to better understand the role of APOE and other factors in recovery after head injury,
Institute researchers are examining global gene expression in injured brain tissue compared to
non-injured, where different forms of the APOE gene are present. Through analysis of these genetic
responses and cognitive and behavioral changes resulting from TBI, cellular pathways of neuronal
damage and repair may be identified. The ultimate goal of this work is to identify new ways of
treating TBI by interrupting these pathways.
- Tourettes Syndrome and Childhood Disorders Research
The Roskamp Institute also has an active childhood disorders research program that has been
exploring the genetic contribution to Tourettes Syndrome (TS) and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity
Disorder (ADHD). Patients with TS, ADHD, autism and other childhood disorders, and their families,
participate in these studies by contributing blood samples and family history information.
Characterization of genes and proteins which may play a role in TS is underway and one gene in
particular has been identified at the site of chromosomal disruption occurring in some TS patients.
Institute Researchers are currently working to understand how this gene may cause Tourette's Syndrome.
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"Everything we do is about finding treatments
for these devastating disorders, and here at the Institute the
marriage of basic and clinical research facilitates that."
– Dr. Fiona Crawford