Alzheimer’s Researchers win 2018 Brain Prize

6 March 2018

Posted by: UAR news team

Category: Communications & media

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Bart De Strooper (London and Leuven), Michel Goedert (Cambridge), Christian Haass (Munich) and John Hardy (London) have won the 2018 Brain Prize for their groundbreaking research on the genetic and molecular basis of Alzheimer’s disease.

The Brain Prize, awarded by the Lundbeck Foundation in Denmark, is worth one millions Euros. Awarded annually, it recognises one or more international scientists who have distinguished themselves by an outstanding contribution to neuroscience.

The research of these four European scientists, some of which has used GM animals, has revolutionised our understanding of the changes in the brain that lead to Alzheimer´s disease and related types of dementias.

Collectively they have shown how the protein amyloid can build-up in the brain, leading to brain cell death.

Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases of the ageing brain cause a great deal of suffering for patients and their families and are a huge challenge for society. It is among the hardest diseases to get a grip on.

This year’s Brain Prize winners have individually and together, made essential contributions to the genetic and molecular knowledge of Alzheimer’s disease which are the foundations for finding new ways to diagnose, treat and possibly even prevent it and other devastating diseases of the ageing brain.

Professor Bart De Strooper is the Director of the UK Dementia Research Institute, at University College London, and Professor of Molecular Medicine at KU Leuven and VIB, Belgium.

Professor De Strooper works with transgenic animals, zebra fish and human brain tissue donated by patients. He discovered that mutations in the presenilin gene, a protein that ‘cuts’ other proteins into smaller pieces, can cause Alzheimer’s by aiding the production of abnormal amyloid. This is the main constituent of the plaques in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

Professor Michel Goedert is a Programme Leader at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge and an Honorary Professor at the University of Cambridge.

Professor Michel Goedert works with human brain tissues, transgenic mice, cultured cells and purified proteins. He discovered that when the protein Tau acts abnormally, it assembles into clusters of filaments and becomes insoluble. The pathological pathway of Tau becoming insoluble is believed to cause neurodegeneration.

Professor Christian Haass is a professor at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich and the speaker of the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases.

Professor Christian Haass works with genetically altered mice. His Alzheimer’s research has focused on the cascade of events starting with amyloid and progressing through the development of plaques and tangles that eventually kill brain cells and destroy memory. Working with John Hardy, he demonstrated how amyloid is generated and how genetic mutations seen in families with very aggressive and rare forms of Alzheimer’s affect its production.

Professor John Hardy is Chair of Molecular Biology of Neurological Disease at the Institute of Neurology, University College London. 

Professor John Hardy works with transgenic mice that mimic neurodegenerative disease. He discovered that Alzheimer’s is initiated by the build-up of the protein amyloid, in the brain. The disease progresses when there is an imbalance in the production and the clearance of amyloid. His discoveries of genetic mutations have had a dramatic impact on understanding not only Alzheimer’s disease but other neurodegenerative diseases including Parkinson’s, and his work is amongst the most highly cited in neuroscience.