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MRI researcher lands $3.1 million grant

Dr. Tiffany Hensley-McBain.png
Posted at 6:17 PM, Jul 03, 2024

GREAT FALLS — North Central Montana might not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of cutting-edge research in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. But the McLaughlin Research Institute, or MRI, is among the finest and now a homegrown researcher will continue that reputation thanks in part to a more than $3.1 million grant from theNational Institutes of Health.

Dr. Tiffany Hensley-McBain's persistence has paid off.

“This grant has been in process since fall 2021 when I started here,” said Hensley-McBain who is an Assistant Professor at MRI and the Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine-Montana. “I put the grant in the first time in the fall of 2021 and it got commented back but not scored. Then we spent the next year getting all of the preliminary data that we needed to go in for a resubmission. So the timeline of these kinds of grants can be that long, about three years, almost from start to finish before you write the first grant and get the funding.”

MRI researcher lands $3.1 million grant

The Great Falls native was excited to learn the grant had been awarded. It will span five years.

“So, our Montana population is aging,” said Hensley-McBain. “With that comes the risk of age related diseases. So we will see a spike in things like Alzheimer's disease over the next 5 to 10 years. Our hope is that by studying these sorts of things at the McLaughlin, we can benefit our state.”

Hensley-McBain's project is titled “investigating neutrophilic inflammation as an APOE genotype-specific mediator of neuroinflammation and cognitive decline in aging.”

Hensley-McBain shared some of her research with colleagues Wednesday, including her team members who will benefit from the funding.

“I have three full time employees in my lab that are all scientists that were trained and most of them born and raised here in Great Falls,” said Hensley-McBain. “I also have five students from Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine now in the lab.”

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia.

While new treatments and therapies are being developed to potentially delay, prevent or even cure Alzheimer’s, Hensley-McBain says the research leading up to that is vitally important.

“I'm very optimistic about where the science is moving and where we may be with therapies in the next 5 to 10 years,” said Hensley-McBain. “The benefit of continuing to do research like mine is that there's still more work to be done. Hopefully all of these things coming together will see the end of Alzheimer's disease and in the future.”

“We are so fortunate to have Tiffany here in Great Falls and Montana. She is an especially talented scientist who is competitive nationally as noted by this NIH award,” said Dr. Renee Reio Pera, CEO and Director of MRI and Dean of Research at TouroCOM-MT in a press release from MRI. “In just a short time, Tiffany has achieved independent science status and is directly addressing one of the most important health problems to Montana.”

The McLaughlin Research Institute has an internationally renowned reputation. Hensley-McBain says she’s fortunate to make a difference in the place where she grew up.

“I feel so lucky that I've been able to come back here and do the work that I do right here in Great Falls and again, provide those training opportunities, but also work on a disease that's really hit home for a lot of Montanans,” said Hensley-McBain.

This is the latest in a series of significant NIH grants to McLaughlin. Two years ago, Hensely-McBain received a grant for $450,000. Earlier this year, it was announced McLaughlin had been awarded a $13.8 million grant from the organization.