Three new research and treatment centers were approved by the Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama System during its meeting in Tuscaloosa Sept. 15.

The Comprehensive Neuroscience Center, The Comprehensive Diabetes Center at UAB and the Center for Pediatric-Onset Demyelinating Disease all embrace a multidisciplinary approach to investigation and development of therapies for these conditions.

The Comprehensive Neuroscience Center (CNC) will lay the foundation for developing a world-class program in interdisciplinary neuroscience research, clinical care and education at UAB, and it will serve as a model for other institutions to emulate,” says Robert R. Rich, M.D., senior vice president and dean of the UAB School of Medicine.

It builds on other recent advances in neuroscience at UAB, including an $8.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to establish the Alabama Neuroscience Blueprint Core Facility awarded in September.

“Neuroscience represents one of the most important areas of modern biomedical research,” Rich says. “Despite significant advances in understanding many basic neurological processes in the past 15 years, development of more effective treatments for neurologic and psychiatric diseases is a large and growing unmet medical need in this country.”

The center will link a variety of disciplines, including neurology, psychiatry, neurobiology, neurosurgery, psychology, vision science and biomedical engineering. Faculty from the schools of Medicine, Optometry, Social & Behavioral Sciences, Dentistry, Engineering, Health Professions and Public Health will be affiliated with the center.

“By interacting directly with existing centers and establishing coalitions of centers and neuroscience subdisciplines, the CNC will help UAB to effectively meet the challenges of modern neuroscience investigation,” says Kevin Roth, M.D., Ph.D., professor of pathology and director of the CNC.

The new Diabetes Center will assemble scientists and clinicians from the departments of Medicine, Surgery, Pediatrics, Nutrition Sciences, Pathology, Cell Biology and Genetics to collaborate on translating basic medical discoveries into effective therapies.

Edward Abraham, M.D., chair of the Department of Medicine, will be the center’s interim director and will lead a national search for a highly qualified scientist to lead it.

A UAB-community partnership is under way to raise funds to support the research and treatment program; nearly $9 million has been raised. Funds will be used to hire a permanent director and six additional faculty members and to provide support for the center’s operating costs during its start-up years, before it is able to generate its own funding, Abraham said.

The Center for Pediatric-Onset Demyelinating Disease (C-PODD) will provide state-of-the-art, multidisciplinary care and support for children, teens and families living with Multiple Sclerosis and other central nervous system-demyelinating diseases.

Earlier this year, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) designated UAB’s pediatric-onset demyelinating disease clinic as one of six Pediatric Multiple Sclerosis Centers of Excellence in the country.

“The establishment of this center, coupled with the earlier NMSS recognition, places UAB at the forefront of efforts to better understand these diseases and the effects of early onset on disease progression,” says Jayne M. Ness, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of pediatric neurology and center director.

Although MS is considered an adult disease, there are 8,000 to 10,000 children who have the ailment and another 10,000 to 15,000 who have experienced what may be symptoms of MS, according to the NMSS. The disease is more difficult to diagnose in children, and many pediatricians are not familiar with MS.

Even when diagnosed, consensus guidelines for treatment exist only in relationship to adult MS, with none for children, largely because there is little information about MS in children.