School of Medicine plays host to Missouri Cures Foundation event

Ann Foundas, M.D., founding chair of School of Medicine's Department of Neurology and Cognitive Neuroscience, was one of two featured speakers at the Missouri Cures Education Foundation lecture on Oct. 2 at the School of Medicine.
Ann Foundas, M.D., founding chair of School of Medicine’s Department of Neurology and Cognitive Neuroscience, was one of two featured speakers at the Missouri Cures Education Foundation lecture on Oct. 2 at the School of Medicine.

Jackson County residents are in a vulnerable state of health, said Betty Drees, dean of the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine.

Statistics flashed on a big screen behind Drees at “Accelerating Cures in Our Community,” a program about the latest in medical treatments that could help area residents. The school, the Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute and the Missouri Cures Education Foundation sponsored the Oct. 2 event. A few of the stats:

  • 20 percent of Jackson County residents report a vision problem
  • 13 percent of Jackson County deaths are from suicide
  • The prevalence of alcohol and drug use and Alzheimer’s are higher than most counties in the U.S.

Wayne Carter, president of the Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute, discussed how the initiative for the Jackson County Translational Medicine Institute would address such critical local health issues. On the ballot Nov. 5, the institute — a partnership between UMKC, KCALSI, Children’s Mercy and Saint Luke’s Health System — would mean $800 million additional research dollars over 20 years that would generate more grant funding, jobs, economic development and, most importantly, more prevention, diagnoses, treatments and cures for what is ailing residents in Jackson County and across the country.

The added bonus, Carter said, is that 20 percent of the proceeds from commercialization of discoveries would come back to Jackson County to address heath.

Two UMKC School of Medicine department chairs discussed their promising research.

Nelson Sabates, chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and director of the Vision Research Center at UMKC, said the Jackson County population is at high risk for eye diseases including age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma.

“The aging baby boomer population makes the treatment of eye-related disorders a huge priority,” said Sabates, president and chief executive officer of Sabates Eye Centers.

The National Institutes of Health’s National Eye Institute estimates that currently more than 38 million Americans ages 40 and older experience blindness, low vision or an age-related eye disease. This is expected to grow to 50 million Americans by the year 2020. Sabates showed what typical vision looks like for those who have age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy —effective long-term treatments are not available for these conditions.

“We’re seeing younger patients all of the time because of diabetes and childhood obesity,” Sabates said.

The Vision Research Center at UMKC has a number of potential drugs and medical devices that are potentially ready to go through U.S. Food and Drug Administration approvals and then to patient care.

Anne Foundas, founding chair of the medical school’s new Department of Neurology and Cognitive Neuroscience, is building a clinical and research enterprise designed to develop new treatments for debilitating brain disorders in our region.

Foundas, who recently came to UMKC from Louisiana State University, showed the results from patients who stutter. An ear device has shown improvement on correcting speech.

Foundas also talked about her translational research in stroke treatment. Currently, stoke is the third most common cause of death.  One of the problems that occur in stroke survivors is spatial neglect, the inability to respond or orient with surroundings. Although speech, memory and other abilities might be spared in brain-injured patients with spatial neglect, the prognosis for recovery of independent function in patients with spatial neglect is worse than other disabling effects.

Foundas and collaborating researchers tested prismatic goggles on right-brain injured patients. The results demonstrated that patients’ functional activities improved after two weeks of prism adaptation treatment and continued improving for four weeks after.

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