New Endowment Establishes the Pam Quirk Brain Health and Biomarker Laboratory

The UNLV Foundation is honored to recognize the generosity of Ted and Maria Quirk, who recently established an endowment to create the Pam Quirk Brain Health and Biomarker Laboratory (Quirk BBL) within the Department of Brain Health in the UNLV School of Integrated Health Sciences. The gift was made in memory of Ted’s sister, Pam, who tragically succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease last December.

The Quirk BBL, co-directed by Jeffrey Cummings MD, ScD, and Jefferson Kinney, Ph.D., is devoted to the banking, measurement, and discovery of biomarkers (such as blood tests) indicative of brain disease. Biomarkers provide insight into the biology of brain disease and provide an essential foundation for diagnosing and treating Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.

“My sister was the most generous person I’ve ever known, and I wanted to do something meaningful in her memory,” shares Ted. “Jeff Cummings is a world-renowned leader in Alzheimer’s disease research. We are excited to support the extremely important work that he, Dr. Kinney, and their Brain Health team are performing at UNLV.”

UNLV Vice President of Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement and UNLV Foundation President Rickey N. McCurry says that “laboratories across UNLV are engaging in life-changing research, and when donors like the Quirks support their work, it allows these teams to move more swiftly towards developments that make the lives of those within our community, and the world, better.”

The brain health team will use the laboratory to advance research into biomarkers for Alzheimer’s Disease and other neurodegenerative diseases, accelerate treatments for these devastating disorders, and help millions of patients and their families.

“The Quirk BBL is poised to make important advances in brain health,” explains Dr. Cummings, the Research Professor and Director of the Chambers-Grundy Center for Transformative Neuroscience. “Thanks to the generosity of the Quirks, we are one step closer to translating novel biomarker discoveries made in our lab into improved diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.”

Photo: Left to right – Dr. Jeffrey Cummings, Maria Quirk, Ted Quirk, Dr. Jefferson Kinney, and UNLV School of Integrated Health Sciences Dean Ronald Brown celebrate the naming of the newly endowed UNLV Pam Quirk Brain Health and Biomarker Laboratory.

Brain Health Month: Tips for Women to Help Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

Two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women

Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder that rapidly declines ability to think, learn, organize, carry out daily activities and remember important details. It’s the most common form of dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 6 million Americans are living with the disease — a number that’s expected to grow to 12.7 million by 2050. And almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women. Although there’s no current cure or treatment for Alzheimer’s, thankfully, there are ways you can reduce risk.

Neuropsychologist Jessica Caldwell, PhD, helps break down the reasons why women may be more affected by Alzheimer’s than men and offers tips that may help prevent the disease.

How Alzheimer’s affects women differently
It’s not exactly clear why women are more affected by Alzheimer’s than men, but there may be several factors at play. According to Dr. Caldwell, women tend to decline faster than men after receiving a diagnosis for Alzheimer’s. Women typically live longer than men, too, and while the No. 1 risk factor for Alzheimer’s is aging, that may not be the whole story.

“Some of the reasons might be artifacts of our diagnostic systems,” says Dr. Caldwell. “For example, we know women tend to have better verbal memory than men, and our tests rely on verbal memory. So, it is possible that women don’t get diagnosed as early because our tests miss those important verbal memory changes.”

In addition, menopause and estrogen loss are a huge area of investigation for Alzheimer’s because estrogen supports an area of the brain (the hippocampus) responsible for forming new memories. It’s this part of the brain that’s first targeted when Alzheimer’s develops, so as women age, they may be even more affected. Plus, women have a greater increase in Alzheimer’s risk, compared to men, when they carry a gene associated with late-onset Alzheimer’s. But on the other hand, there is a line of research that suggests having two X-chromosomes might put women at an advantage.

“There’s not a simple, straightforward story,” says Dr. Caldwell. “We are going to have to look at Alzheimer’s as involving our genetics, our environment as well as our own behaviors.”

For more information, the entire article is online at the Cleveland Clinic website.

Photo: Courtesy of Cleveland Clinic – during an Alzheimer’s Friends Walk

One of the Most Exciting Development Opportunities in the City of Las Vegas

The Las Vegas Medical District (LVMD), home of the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at UNLV, University Medical Center (UMC), Valley Hospital Medical Center, and other ancillary medical facilities and providers, is, today, one of the most exciting development opportunities in the city of Las Vegas.

According to Bill Arent, Deputy Director of Economic and Urban Development for the city, the recent evolution and expansion of the Medical District is putting the area on the map in a big way for potential developers.

“Located within an Opportunity Zone and within the city’s Redevelopment Area, the Las Vegas Medical District offers developers many incentives,” said Arent. “With the growing number of faculty and students at the Medical School, along with hospital workers, there is an increased need for a variety of neighborhood services such as retail and dining, as well as residential development including apartments that provide walkability to work and school.”

Centrally located within the heart of the valley near US 95 and I-15, the LVMD has already benefitted from approximately $400 million in actual and planned private and public investment since 2018, an investment that speaks volumes about the area’s potential, according to Arent.

Recently completed or ongoing public infrastructure improvements include the Bearden Family Paseo that provides an outdoor gathering and respite space offering LVMD workers and students a place to rejuvenate; signage throughout the area that creates a true sense of identity for the district; and significant roadway projects that are improving pedestrian safety, traffic capacity and utility reliability.

Private investment in the LVMD is led by the ongoing development of the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at UNLV for which its first medical education building will be completed this summer; an expansion of Valley Hospital Medical Center’s emergency room; and the completion of Optum Care Cancer Center located at the gateway to the LVMD.

Currently in the pipeline for future growth and expansion are several projects that will contribute to the area’s ongoing revitalization, including a rehabilitation of nine buildings on the UMC campus; a development of the Women’s Cancer Center on the corner of Pinto Lane and Tonopah Drive; future apartment development of more than 200 rental units; and a $60 million investment by G2 Capital Development for a 150,000 square foot medical building and a 75,000 square foot hotel.

For more information about development opportunities at the Las Vegas Medical District, contact Tabitha Pederson at tpederson@lasvegasnevada.gov or 702-229-2411.

Photo: Las Vegas Medical District Monument