Neurodegenerative Disease and Aging

The Studies

The aging brain is susceptible to a number of devastating disorders that slowly rob a person of their ability to think, see, hear, or move — functions we often take for granted. With our aging population, prevalence of neurodegenerative disorders will increase over the next few decades. The Neurodegenerative Disease and Aging Research Focus Area at NEOMED is a collaborative team of researchers who focus on three of the most common age-related neurodegenerations: Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Parkinson’s disease (PD), and glaucoma. Our mission is to discover, develop, and validate new biomarkers and treatments for these diseases.

The Statistics


More than 10 million people worldwide are living with Parkinson’s Disease.


Alzheimer’s Disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, and is the only disease in the top 10 that cannot be prevented, cured or slowed.


Estimates show that over 3 million Americans have glaucoma but only half of those know they have it.

The Successes

  • Discovery that bone loss in Alzheimer’s disease may be an early indicator that disease process has begun in the brainstem before it reaches areas that affect learning and memory.
  • Evidence that the ketogenic diet may be an effective method for reducing vision loss in glaucoma.
  • Discovered that loss of function of the Atp13a2 gene, which is associated with an inherited form of Parkinson’s disease, worsens sensory and motor problems in the disease.
  • Discovered that exposure to a commonly used pesticide impaired cellular metabolism.
  • Discovered that pre-treatment with dopamine transporter modulating drugs prevented fungicide-mediated damage.
  • Discovered that electrical signaling between the eye and brain is lost before neurons degenerate in glaucoma.
  • Identified the multiple sclerosis drug fingolimod (Gilenya, Novartis) may restore function to “sick” neurons in glaucoma and other neurodegenerative conditions.
  • Discovery that the Wnt/Beta catenin cellular signaling pathway is disrupted both systemically and centrally in early Alzheimer’s disease.
Matthew Smith in the lab

The Scientists

Recent evidence indicates a number of similarities between different age-related neurodegenerations. We believe that determining the underlying mechanisms of these commonalities in each disease can inform research on the other disorders. Our investigations focus on the following areas:

The Stories


Sheila Fleming, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences
Director, Neurodegenerative Disease and Aging Research Focus Area
College of Pharmacy
Phone: 330.325.6568


Research at NEOMED