Dr. Andrew C. Charles, a professor of neurology and director of UCLA's Headache Research and Treatment Program, has been named the first holder of the Meyer and Renee Luskin Chair in Migraine and Headache Studies. This chair is the first in the country dedicated to headache research.
The chair was established with a gift from Meyer and Renee Luskin, UCLA alumni who have made a number of generous gifts to UCLA, including a transformative $100 million contribution in January 2011 to support academic programs and capital improvements.
Migraine and other forms of headache are common disorders that cause either episodic or chronic disability in hundreds of millions of individuals worldwide.
Charles' laboratory uses brain-imaging and physiological techniques to investigate the basic biology involved in migraine headaches. Under his direction, the UCLA Headache Research and Treatment Program also performs clinical research on new therapies for headaches, educates health care providers about optimal diagnosis and treatment, and provides state-of-the-art clinical care for patients who suffer from these disorders.
The purpose of the Luskin Chair is to support translational research aimed at bringing new therapies to patients who suffer from migraines and to improve the standard of care.
By studying patterns of brain-cell communication involved in migraines, Charles' lab has identified multiple potential treatment approaches that are being considered for formal clinical trials. His group was the first to show that females have a lower threshold for the waves of brain activity that are believed to be an important trigger for migraines, which may help explain why three times as many women as men have migraines (roughly one in four women are afflicted by the condition). Migraines commonly run in families, and Charles' group has played a primary role in the recent identification and characterization of a new gene that causes migraines.
"Dr. Charles has proven himself to be one of the most insightful and innovative scientific investigators we have within the UCLA Department of Neurology," said Dr. John Mazziotta, the Stark Professor and Chair of the Department of Neurology and director of the UCLA Ahmanson–Lovelace Brain Mapping Center. "The ongoing generosity of Meyer and Renee continues to humble us here at UCLA. Their gift is also insightful, in that it will endow the first academic chair in the country dedicated to migraine research. This gift promises to move Dr. Charles' research forward in finding better treatments and, ultimately, a cure for a disorder that afflicts so many people around the world."
The Luskins have a long relationship with UCLA. Meyer earned a bachelor's degree in economics from UCLA in 1949 and has credited the multidisciplinary education he received with providing the platform for his successful business career. Renee earned a bachelor's degree in sociology from UCLA in 1953. Their generosity has already made an enormous impact on UCLA, and their $100 million gift earlier this year is the second largest ever received by the university.
The Luskins have also established a fund to support undergraduates participating in civic-engagement research, a graduate fellowship in history, a children's clinic at Santa Monica–UCLA Medical Center, and the Luskin Center for Innovation, which is housed in UCLA's Meyer and Renee Luskin School of Public Affairs.
"We are very happy to support the work of Dr. Andrew Charles, and for the millions of people, including our daughter Andrea, who endure migraines and other headache maladies," said Meyer Luskin. "We look forward to the help that Dr. Charles' research will provide."
"Despite the extraordinary prevalence of migraine and other headache disorders and the staggering social and economic costs that they cause worldwide," Charles said, "they continue to receive relatively little attention in terms of basic and clinical research. Meyer and Renee Luskin have recognized the magnitude and complexity of this problem, and their gift is aimed at increasing our understanding of migraine and finding new approaches to treatment. I'm deeply honored to be associated with the Luskins, who are remarkably thoughtful, kind and compassionate individuals. Their generous support will help us to move the field forward and to better care for our patients who are disabled by headache."
Endowed chairs and professorships continue to play an increasingly crucial role in the recruitment and retention of outstanding university faculty. Reserved for the most distinguished scholars and teachers, including the best junior faculty, endowed chairs provide vital funds for the support of the chair holder's research, teaching and service activities. Donors continue to provide thoughtful and generous support for endowed chairs with the knowledge that their gifts supply a solid foundation for the enrichment of university programs and the recognition of academic excellence.
The UCLA Department of Neurology, with over 100 faculty members, encompasses more than 20 disease-related research programs, along with large clinical and teaching programs. These programs cover brain mapping and neuroimaging, movement disorders, Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, neurogenetics, nerve and muscle disorders, epilepsy, neuro-oncology, neurotology, neuropsychology, headaches and migraines, neurorehabilitation, and neurovascular disorders. The department ranks first among its peers nationwide in National Institutes of Health funding.