History

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View of Cole Valley looking east from Parnassus in 1892

For almost 20 years, the UCSF Memory and Aging Center has been providing model care for patients and their families, finding innovative ways to understand and hopefully cure these neurodegenerative diseases, and reaching out to the wider community to raise awareness about these diseases of aging.

  • 1998: Bruce Miller, MD is recruited to UCSF to establish a clinical dementia program within the Department of Neurology. Co-founders include Joel Kramer, PsyD; Kristine Yaffe, MD and Rosalie Gearhart, RN, MS. Dr. Miller is awarded the A.W. & Mary Margaret Clausen Distinguished Professorship in Neurology.
  • 1999: UCSF is named an Alzheimer's Disease Research Center of California (ARCC) with Bruce Miller, MD as Principal Investigator and Medical Director. The UCSF ARCC at the Memory and Aging Center goes on to establish strong linkages between existing clinical, research and basic science programs and community agencies. It is recognized as a source for outstanding diagnostic and treatment services to individuals with dementia and to their families. In 2009, the name ARCC changed to California Alzheimer’s Disease Center (CADC).
  • 2002: Dr. Miller becomes the first NIH investigator to receive a Program Project Grant to evaluate frontotemporal dementia (FTD). The UCSF Memory and Aging Center receives a grant to establish the Hillblom Aging Network to learn more about how a healthy person ages and what changes in the brain occur with aging.
  • 2004: UCSF is designated as a national Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC) with the Memory and Aging Center as the central coordinating site. Funded by the NIH, this large collaborative project involves multiple institutions and locations. It is designed to integrate basic science and clinical resources in order to investigate the clinical, molecular, neuropathological and neuroimaging features of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), non-AD dementias and mild cognitive impairment (MCI).
  • 2005: In 2005, the UCSF MAC led the first ever randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled treatment trial for patients with sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease with a primary outcome of survival in the US. Our CJD team continues to work with Dr. Stanley Prusiner on other potential treatments.
  • 2006: The MAC hosted FTD 2006: 5th International Conference on Frontotemporal Dementia, a three day conference devoted to scientific sessions as well as caregivers, family members and interested laypersons. Topics included the molecular basis of FTD, animal models, behavioral manifestations, diagnostic testing and biomarker assessments including neuroimaging and genetics.
  • 2007: The UCSF Memory and Aging Center ran the first randomized, multi-center, double-blind, placebo-controlled treatment trial of memantine for patients with frontotemporal dementia.
  • 2008: Bridging Cultures: Improving Evaluation and Treatment of Cognitive Disorders was organized by the MAC and held in Chinatown. This one-day conference had a morning science track and afternoon caregiver track, which was presented in English with Chinese interpretation services provided to those who wanted it. Rosalie Gearhart, RN, MSN, won the UCSF Chancellor’s Award for the Advancement of Women.
  • 2009: The MAC made several research breakthroughs: established the Consortium for Frontotemporal Dementia Research with the hope that the power of this funding, along with collaborative science by the best minds in the field, will lead to a cure for FTD within 10 years; implemented the first Phase 2 trials for tau-related therapies for frontotemporal dementia; began collection of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) from affected families and healthy volunteers to build better disease models; and created a program using telemedicine to help people in rural areas. Dr. Miller was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Neurology.
  • 2010: Dr. Miller received the prestigious Potamkin Prize from the American Academy of Neurology for research in Pick’s, Alzheimer’s and related diseases. The Tau Consortium was created to accelerate the development of potential tau therapeutic options for tau-related disorders in patients with progressive supranuclear palsy, corticobasal degeneration and FTD-related tauopathies. The Neuroimaging in Frontotemporal Dementia project to assess imaging techniques and lab tests as biomarkers for FTD began. The Center also hosted a one-day conference in November 2010 of some of the leading experts in rapidly progressive dementia and subacute encephalopathies: Rapidly Progressive Dementia and Subacute Encephalopathies: Diagnosis and Management.
  • 2011: Physician-scientist William Seeley, MD, becomes the first neurologist to receive a MacArthur "Genius" award. The Center presents its first UCSF Osher Mini Medical School for the Public series entitled "The Aging Brain" to packed audiences. The Memory and Aging Center building committee meets with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP to design the new office and clinical research space at the UCSF Mission Bay campus. The Program Project Grant to evaluate frontotemporal dementia (FTD) started in 2002 is reviewed by the NIH and receives with a perfect score with five more years of funding.
  • 2012: The innovative Sandler Neuroscience Center is completed, and the Memory and Aging Center moves in, bringing all their basic and clinical research under one roof. Dr. Bruce Miller is awarded the UCSF Academic Senate Distinction in Mentoring Award, the 12th Annual Academic Senate Faculty Research Lecture in Clinical Science and the Gene D. Cohen Research Award in Creativity and Aging.
  • 2013: Adam Boxer, MD, PhD, initiated the first clinical trial of a compound that we expect to raise progranulin levels in people for whom a shortage of progranulin in their brain leads to frontotemporal dementia. This trial arose from a close collaboration between Li Gan, PhD, at the Gladstone Institutes and the UCSF Memory and Aging Center. Zac Miller, MD, discovered a link between systemic inflammation due to autoimmune disease and forms of frontotemporal dementia that involve the protein TDP43. This finding opens up new avenues for diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment. William Seeley, MD, revealed that neurodegenerative diseases spread across brain networks in predictable patterns based on the neurons’ shared vulnerability to disease. In collaboration with Yadong Huang, PhD, at the Gladstone Institutes, the UCSF Memory and Aging Center created the first cellular model of tauopathy from adult human stem cells with a rare mutation that increases susceptibility to Alzheimer’s disease, progressive supranuclear palsy, and frontotemporal dementia. These models provide a unique way to study the mechanisms that break down in human disease.

Today, the UCSF Memory and Aging Center employs more than 200 talented faculty and staff and enlists the support of more than 40 volunteers. We treat approximately 3000 patients in our clinic each year (1000 new patients and 2000 follow-up visits). Additionally, another 500–1000 individuals participate in over 70 different MAC research projects each year. New diagnostic and treatment approaches to Alzheimer’s disease and non-Alzheimer’s dementias, including frontotemporal dementia, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, corticobasal degeneration and mild cognitive impairment have been established at UCSF.