South Florida Hospital News
Thursday August 21, 2014
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April 2013 - Volume 9 - Issue 10

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NSU-COM’s Institute for Neuro-Immune Medicine Aims to Ease Suffering

In February, Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine (NSU-COM) held a grand opening ceremony for its Institute for Neuro-Immune Medicine. Celebrants gathered to salute the first-of-its-kind facility that will treat patients with conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) and Gulf War Illness (GWI), as well as conduct basic and clinical research under one roof in this field.
 
The Institute is the only one in the nation to study neuroinflammatory and neurodegenerative disorders that include CFS/ME, GWI, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and other illnesses using the newest genomic techniques. By studying individual genes and what they code for, the Institute’s scientists will better understand the symptoms and causes, as well as point to new ways to treat these complex disorders.
 
The idea is to challenge the patient with something such as exercise and measure which genes turn on or off to better understand the cause of relapse and the persistence of illness. The analysis seeks points of intervention to treat the patient. This important basic research will provide answers that will help scientists develop new pharmaceutical medications to treat these illnesses.
 

Dr. Nancy Klimas, director NSU-COM’s Institute for Neuro-Immune Medicine and chair of Clinical Immunology at Nova Southeastern University, examines a female patient.

Leading this innovative team is Nancy Klimas, M.D., who has achieved international recognition for her research and clinical efforts in complex medical disorders that are the focus of the Institute. She is a highly regarded authority who has served as a past president of the International Association for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Myalgic Encephalopathy (IACFS/ME)—a professional organization of clinicians and investigators—and a member of the Department of Health and Human Services CFS Advisory Committee.
 
“The Institute for Neuro-Immune Medicine, strategically placed at NSU-COM, will bring together great minds in the field of neuro-immune disorders under one umbrella,” Dr. Klimas said. “It will be a place to coordinate cutting-edge thinking and research, train new practitioners, and offer the highest quality clinical care for a hugely underserved population. I am thrilled to partner with NSU-COM in this giant step forward in the field of CFS/ME care and research.”
 
An expert in immune disorders, Dr. Klimas will treat patients at two sites: the institute on the main campus in Davie and at the existing Chronic Fatigue Center in Kendall, where Dr. Klimas is the director. The new $5 million institute, which houses research laboratories, a patient clinic, a clinical research unit, faculty offices, and conference facilities, is designed to bring together multiple core medical and scientific disciplines in one place. This includes clinicians, educators, and researchers in the areas of genomics, virology, immunology, cellular biology, computational biology, and therapeutic modeling.
 
For instance, researchers can study the way a patient’s genes react during exercise while experiencing chronic fatigue syndrome and plug that data into a computer model to calculate the ways this reaction could be blocked off. The computer would then run through all the pre-approved therapies and see whether any of them have that desired effect. This is “a novel treatment with strategies that are not yet modeled,” Dr. Klimas said. The NSU-COM clinics in Davie and Kendall accommodate around 1,200 patients from South Florida, throughout the nation, and around the world.
 
In addition to discovering treatments, the Institute works diligently to obtain financial support. Dr. Klimas recently received an invitation to write a research project with the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This prestigious request builds on the support of the three grants the Institute already has with the NIH. A third supporter—the U.S. Department of Defense—has awarded three grants, including a $4 million honor with the Miami VA Medical Center on Gulf War Illness research.
 
As the Institute’s research progresses, Dr. Klimas hopes to attract investors to support the groundbreaking work of her diverse and skilled team. Along with her team, Dr. Klimas is enabled, respected, and ready to make a significant interprofessional contribution toward advancing knowledge about neuroinflammatory and neurodegenerative disorders.
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