NEW YORK, August 10, 2007 - By 2050, more than 106 million people worldwide are forecasted to have Alzheimer's disease (AD), including 16 million Americans if no preventive treatments become available. To address the need for more research into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer's, six early-career scientists were awarded the first Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation/AFAR New Investigator Awards in Alzheimer's Disease. The $60,000 award provides funding for a broad array of research that investigates the causes and progression of Alzheimer's, including the basic mechanisms of aging, genetics, biomarkers, inflammation and the impact of exercise and the environment.
Award recipients include:
Yaniv Assaf, Ph.D., Lecturer, Tel Aviv University: "Hippocampus characterization of mice over-expressing APP and APOE3/4 using multi-dimensional MRI"
Dr. Assaf will study the role that the biochemical substances APP a precursor protein to amyloid-â, the gene apoE4, and environmental factors play in brain plasticity, degeneration and cognitive decline using a novel magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) methodology called virtual-dot-com that allows for a greater sensitivity and specificity of the brain than conventional MRI.
Olivier Boutaud, Ph.D., Research Assistant Professor, Vanderbilt University Medical Center: "Quantification of the relative abundance of secreted APP alpha and beta as a biomarker of Alzheimer's disease"
New therapies for AD are hindered by the lack of reliable biomarkers which could track the clinical progression of the disease. Dr. Boutaud's research seeks to quantify whether levels of secreted APP alpha and beta could serve as an effective biomarker for Alzheimer's disease. This biomarker could potentially be used as a prognostic tool to track the progression of the disease as well as monitor the biological effects of new therapeutic agents.
Chad Antony Dickey, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of South Florida: "The Role of Re-folding Chaperones in Tau Aggregation"
The goal of Dr. Dickey's research is to identify ways in which specific proteins accumulate in the brain and identify new drug targets for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. The study will focus on the removal of the accumulated proteins by manipulating a class of proteins called molecular chaperones. These chaperones help in the processing of proteins within neurons and may represent an entirely novel class of candidates for therapeutic development in Alzheimer's research.
Isabella A. Graef, M.D., Assistant Professor, Stanford University: "Harnessing endogenous proteins to prevent and clear pathogenic protein aggregates in Alzheimer's disease"
Dr. Graef's research focuses on the creation of a molecule that is able to attach itself to a chaperone, an abundant cellular protein that helps other proteins to fold properly. These new compounds can tether bulky chaperones to the beta-amyloid fragments and prevent them from forming large clumps. As a result, these molecules are effective at reducing protein clumping at concentrations 100 times lower than other blocking agents that have been tested. Through her research grant, she hopes to further develop this approach, contributing to the development of therapeutic agents that could prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer's.
Indu Kheterpal, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Pennington Biomedical Research Center: "Development of a Mass Spectrometic Screening Assay to Characterize Modifiers of A-beta Amyloid Aggregation in Alzheimer's disease"
Dr. Kheterpal's research focuses on developing experimental tools to test and identify small molecules that slow, prevent and/or reverse protein accumulation in AD. These new techniques may also be broadly applicable to more than 25 diseases that have been shown to be associated with protein misfolding and aggregation, including Parkinson's disease and type II diabetes.
Grace Stutzmann, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Rosalind Franklin University: "Contributions of early calcium signaling dysregulations to Alzheimer's disease pathogenesis"
Dr. Stutzmann's research focuses on early neuronal signaling alterations that occur prior to the onset of beta amyloid plaques and tangles, and impairments in memory function. Specifically, she will try to determine the role of early calcium signaling defects in AD, and, to determine if normalizing this calcium defect can reduce the later symptoms of the disease.
Alzheimer's disease is the most prevalent neurodegenerative disease affecting an estimated 26 million people worldwide, including 4.5 million Americans. Scientists predict that the prevalence of the disease will double for every five-year age group beyond 65. With the growing aging population, Alzheimer's will have an enormous health, societal and cost impact.
"We are very pleased that The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation has made an investment in research that will add to our knowledge about the aging brain and how the interplay of genes, environment and chance events influence neurodegeneration, particularly Alzheimer's disease," said George M. Martin, MD, Director Emeritus, Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, University of Washington School of Medicine and Scientific Director of the American Federation for Aging Research. "Through their contribution, the next generation of scientists will continue the progress made in Alzheimer's research allowing us to get one step closer to preventing or curing the disease," he added.
"The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation has invested in an outstanding group of U.S. and Israeli researchers who have the potential to make important and lasting contributions to Alzheimer's disease and aging science," said Martin H. Blank, Jr., co-director of the Foundation.
The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation (www.thegilbertfoundation.org) invests in programs in the areas of College Access, Healthcare and Israel. In addition, The Foundation funds Arts Education & Culture in Los Angeles, Jewish Programs in Los Angeles, and Universities in California. In the area of Alzheimer's disease, The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation focuses its grantmaking on the advancement of research by junior investigators in the United States and Israel and investments in Alzheimer's disease caregiving.
AFAR is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to support biomedical research on aging. It is devoted to creating the knowledge that all of us need to live healthy, productive, and independent lives. Since 1981, AFAR has awarded approximately $100 million to more than 2,400 talented scientists as part of its broad-based series of grant programs. Its work has led to significant advances in our understanding of the aging process, age-related diseases, and healthy aging practices. AFAR communicates news of these innovations through its organizational web site www.afar.org and educational web sites Infoaging (www.infoaging.org) and Health Compass (www.healthcompass.org).