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Announcing Our New Neuroinflammation and Brain Disease Research Initiative

The American Brain Foundation-led initiative has attracted cross-industry support and brings together top researchers to explore how neuroinflammation impacts a broad range of brain diseases.

 

We have launched a new neuroinflammation research initiative as part of our existing Cure One, Cure Many program. This large-scale, multi-phased initiative will support research to better understand neuroinflammation as an underlying mechanism of brain disease and brain health.

Neuroinflammation contributes to numerous diseases and affects all stages of life. Because all brain diseases are connected, insights into the role and impact of neuroinflammation will take us closer to discovering cures for many different neurologic conditions. Learn about this new initiative and how we are bringing together neurologists from many different fields to focus on brain inflammation research. 

Why Research Neuroinflammation?

Inflammation is the immune system’s natural response to injury, illness, or infection. Neuroinflammation is an inflammatory response that takes place in the brain and spinal cord. Sometimes this inflammation occurs as a helpful reaction of the immune system, but at other times, it can be a mechanism of disease or degeneration. For example, there is evidence that prolonged or excessive inflammation may be a key driver in the onset and progression of several neurologic diseases and disorders, including neurodegenerative diseases, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and others.

Nearly every neurological and neuropsychiatric disorder involves complex changes in the brain’s inflammatory response. Together, these diseases affect 60% of the US population and at least 3 billion people worldwide, and they attack the essence of what makes us human: thought, speech, emotion, and movement. We are confident this research will help many people, from individuals living with brain disease to their caregivers and loved ones.

A deeper understanding of specifically how and when inflammation occurs in the brain and spinal cord will aid in detecting, treating, and preventing a broad spectrum of brain diseases. “There are immune cells in our brains [that] we need in order to remain healthy,” says Stephen Hauser, MD, chair of the initiative’s scientific committee and a recipient of the American Brain Foundation’s 2022 Scientific Breakthrough Award. “These same immune cells can be harnessed… to rejuvenate or protect against brain disease. The immune system is so important not only for understanding and diagnosing disease, but also in fighting it.”

Connections Between Neuroinflammation and Brain Disease

Neurodegenerative brain diseases often involve a progressive decline of the nervous system. Research shows that high levels of neuroinflammation may accelerate brain aging and contribute to the progression of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, Parkinson’s disease, and Lewy body dementia. 

Neuroinflammation may also be linked to many different diseases beyond neurodegenerative diseases. Learning how neuroinflammation is connected to changes in the brain has the potential to reveal insights that can be broadly applied across diseases and disorders like: 

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Brain tumor
  • Chronic pain
  • COVID-19-associated brain disease
  • Encephalitis
  • Epilepsy
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Meningitis
  • Migraine
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Myopathy and neuropathy
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Stroke
  • Traumatic brain injury

Recent research has also linked elevated levels of inflammation throughout the body to brain inflammation that could trigger depression. Exploring this connection further may reveal insights into a range of mental illnesses, including how to better personalize treatment.

Bringing Researchers Together to Cure Brain Disease

The American Brain Foundation is proud to bring together researchers from many different disciplines and fields, as well as sponsors from various industries. Because of the Foundation’s role in establishing this initiative, key contributors such as Gates Ventures, the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA), pharmaceutical organizations, private philanthropists, and nonprofits are joining forces to support neuroinflammation research. This kind of cross-industry support is unprecedented and shows the importance of researching neuroinflammation.

This new neuroinflammation initiative will provide funding to the world’s top researchers to pursue the most innovative, cross-cutting approaches to brain disease diagnosis and treatment. The American Brain Foundation is partnering with disease-specific research and patient advocacy organizations, including the National MS Society and the Encephalitis Society.

“We hope to generate the very best ideas through [research] across silos,” says Dr. Hauser. “We have an all-star team of evaluators and an incredibly exciting project… I think it will really accelerate the very best ideas and lead to answers for the millions of people and families who are affected by a brain disease.”

Donors are especially crucial in supporting ongoing research. Our neuroinflammation initiative has already received early funding from a private family foundation, which donated $4.7 million to the American Brain Foundation—the largest single gift in the history of our organization. From this generous gift, $2.5 million went to supporting the neuroinflammation initiative. The donors were inspired by our Cure One, Cure Many approach to research as well as by witnessing firsthand the toll dementia takes on families and caregivers.

“More and more people are living longer lives, and more and more people are developing brain diseases,” says Dr. Hauser. “So the stakes are high, but the opportunity is even greater.” 

We know this research will help the millions of people affected by brain disease worldwide, but we need your support. By funding innovative research projects, we can work together to make progress toward life without brain disease. 

We will begin soliciting research proposals for the neuroinflammation initiative in spring 2024. To learn more and see the request for proposals when it is made available, sign up for our research opportunities emails here.

The American Brain Foundation was founded to bring researchers and donors together in the fight against brain disease. Learn more about brain disease or make a gift to support groundbreaking brain disease research.