LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- Promising research is coming out of a new department at University of Nevada, Las Vegas focused on brain health.
The department just started this semester, and is partnered with the Lou Ruvo Center. But it already has dozens of students and they’ve already made some new findings.
“There really wasn't this presence here at UNLV and it was a tremendous opportunity to tap into patient populations to research possibilities in Las Vegas,” Dr. Jefferson Kinney said. The professor founded the new department.
Instead of reading text books, students are looking under microscopes, testing samples and analyzing data.
“We’re working with blood samples from patient population, as well as tissue samples from pre-clinical models to try and understand the diseases,” Kinney said.
The team made up of students and professors are focusing on degenerative brain diseases.
“Learning more about inflammation and the effect it has not only in Alzheimer’s but other degenerative diseases – Parkinson’s, Huntington’s,” neuroscience grad student Amanda Leisgang said.
And they’re about to launch more experiments to better understand head trauma.
“A lot of this work right now is moving between whether or not a single large concussion is better or worse than a lot of smaller injuries to the head that isn't necessarily as severe,” Kinney said. “There’s a wealth of sports expansion here in Las Vegas, making this really timely. And we have a number of active research projects to investigate this.”
Some students said they chose to come to UNLV because of the new departments.
“Having the hands-on experience is a totally different experience,” Leisgang said. “You don’t truly understand what's going on by reading a textbook.”
“There’s absolutely nothing like when you find something that no one knew about before,” Kinney said. Researchers said this is just the start as they begin making headway in brain health.
“In a field that no one really knows the answer to, it’s extremely satisfying and it drives you to do another 50 experiments,” Kinney said.
The department has big plans to expand. Next semester, it will offer a doctoral degree in occupational therapy.