UCLA has received a gift of $2 million to establish the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation Research Support Fund in the department of neurology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

The fund will support clinical and basic medical research under the guidance of the director of the UCLA Multiple Sclerosis Program, Dr. Rhonda Voskuhl, a professor of neurology and UCLA’s Jack H. Skirball Professor of Multiple Sclerosis Research.

“I am grateful to the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation for its longtime support and generosity,” Voskuhl said. “Our partnership with the foundation is vital to advancing novel approaches in clinical and basic medical research in multiple sclerosis and cognitive decline.”

The fund will advance the discovery of treatments tailored and optimized to prevent and repair each person’s neurodegenerative disability, one at a time, as opposed to the one-size-fits-all approach that has traditionally been used.

UCLA Neurology scientists will study genes in the brain regions aligned with each disability and identify disability-specific treatment targets. The approach will be applied to the cognitive, walking and visual disabilities associated with multiple sclerosis, and to cognitive decline of brain aging in healthy people and those diagnosed with the mild cognitive impairment that precedes Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers also intend to learn how menopause in women and andropause in men affect these same brain areas during cognitive decline, and develop treatments to prevent the negative effects of the loss of estrogen and progesterone in women and testosterone in men during aging.

“Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis affect millions of people worldwide,” said Dr. S. Thomas Carmichael, chair of the neurology department and UCLA’s Frances Stark Professor of Neurology. “UCLA Neurology is committed to finding ways to prevent and treat these conditions more effectively. The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation has been an important UCLA Neurology partner and we are grateful for this most recent gift.”

The Hilton Foundation, founded by the late Conrad N. Hilton, has long been a generous supporter of UCLA, with gifts totaling $26.4 million. Its giving, directed primarily to the Geffen School of Medicine, has previously benefited the neurology department, as well as the division of infectious diseases and the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.

“This fund honors the commitment my father, Barron Hilton, made to ongoing research after seeing my mother, Marilyn, live with multiple sclerosis for many years,” said Hawley Hilton McAuliffe, board chair of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. “We hope for a time when no other family will have to watch their loved ones live with the same disease and are honored to support the important work Dr. Rhonda Voskuhl and her team at UCLA are performing in search of a cure.”

The UCLA Department of Neurology is dedicated to preventing, curing and improving the lives of people with neurological diseases through patient care, innovative research and education.

The department’s Clinical Neurogenomics Research Center sequences the DNA of all of its outpatients and pairs it with a bioinformatics analysis pipeline. The database allows clinicians to test hypotheses about neurological disease, treatment responses and outcomes. The department is ranked No. 8 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.