Public Release: 

Mayo Clinic receives $5.75 million gift for Lewy body dementia research

Mayo Clinic

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Mayo Clinic's campus in Jacksonville, Florida, has received a $5.75 million gift from the Harry T. Mangurian Jr. Foundation in Palm Beach, Florida, to advance the study of Lewy body dementia, a deadly disease that causes a progressive decline in mental and physical abilities. The new Mayo program is one of a few in the world dedicated to finding answers and treatments for the disease.

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The gift establishes the Mayo Clinic Dorothy and Harry T. Mangurian Jr. Lewy Body Dementia Program and builds on the foundation's previous support of Mayo research to advance awareness and understanding of Lewy body dementia. It also helps support the brain bank on Mayo's Florida campus, which includes about 1,000 donated organs of deceased patients confirmed to have had Lewy body dementia.

Lewy body dementia doesn't have the name recognition of Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease, but patients suffer with symptoms of both those better-known and dreaded conditions. Many patients with Lewy body dementia also experience psychiatric complications including hallucinations and delusions.

"Patients will see things that aren't there -- small animals, small children," says Dennis Dickson, M.D., a neuropathologist and director of the new program. "They will, for example, deny that their spouse is their spouse -- 'You look like my wife, but you're not my wife. You're an impostor.'"

Previous gifts from the Mangurian Foundation have helped Mayo researchers contribute to a first-ever genome-wide association study that found new genetic risk factors for Lewy body dementia. Mayo Clinic researchers also discovered a Lewy body dementia gene within the last year that runs in some families, and identified a severe sleep disorder, in which patients act out their dreams, as a significant predictor of the disease 10 to 20 years in advance of other symptoms.

"We at the Harry T. Mangurian Jr. Foundation are dedicated to supporting research seeking a cure to this disease and are proud of partnering with Mayo Clinic in this ongoing effort," says Gordon Latz, a vice president of the foundation.

The first published cases of Lewy body dementia occurred in the mid-1960s, and it wasn't until the 1980s that people started to recognize the disorder, says Dr. Dickson, who has been conducting research on the disease for nearly 30 years. According to the Lewy Body Dementia Association, the disease affects an estimated 1.3 million individuals and their families in the United States. Because symptoms may closely resemble other more commonly known diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, it is currently widely underdiagnosed.

Dr. Dickson co-chaired a national committee last year that set research priorities for Lewy body dementia, which Mayo's program follows. Current work to understand how the disease forms and spreads in the brain is being conducted by Mayo Clinic physicians and researchers on the Florida and Minnesota campuses, and includes:

  • Sleep studies
  • Neuroimaging techniques
  • Patient studies over time
  • Laboratory research

The program's goal is to find existing and new medications that will help patients. Having a dedicated program also helps raise awareness about the disease, and the patients and families who live with it.

"We're especially grateful to the Mangurian Foundation for their commitment to making Lewy body dementia a more widely known disorder," Dr. Dickson says.

The late Harry T. Mangurian Jr. was a developer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Rochester, New York. He owned the NBA's Boston Celtics, was integral in bringing the NFL to Tampa, and was an influential leader in thoroughbred horse racing, maintaining a breeding farm in Ocala, Florida.

His widow, Dorothy Mangurian, has Lewy body dementia.

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