On Monday 4 February, Dennis J. Selkoe and five other "brain teasers" will receive an honorary doctorate from the KU Leuven. The promoters for this honorary doctorate - VIB-KU Leuven professors Bart De Strooper and Wim Robberecht - will honor Dennis J. Selkoe for his scientific insights, but also for his relentless search for new medicines to treat Alzheimer's Disease and other conditions that cause severe damage in the brain.
"The search for a treatment of Alzheimer's Disease is slow", admits KU-Leuven honorary doctorate and Harvard professor Dennis J. Selkoe. "However, I remain convinced that we are making progress." He questions whether we will ever be able to cure the disease entirely. "But preventing Alzheimer's should be feasible."
Selkoe honorary doctorate, lecture for all
On Tuesday 5 February 2013 at 19:00, Dennis J. Selkoe will give the presentation "Preventing Alzheimer's disease" in the Large Auditorium ("Grote Aula") of the Maria Theresia College. He will focus on the progress and obstacles in current research into Alzheimer's disease and the development of preventative medication. The lecture will be held in English. Please register via www.vib.be/dennisselkoe. Participation is free of charge.
The seventy-year-old neurologist Dennis J. Selkoe is the most cited Alzheimer scientist in the world. He is Vincent and Stella Coates Professor of Neurologic Diseases at the prestigious Harvard Medical School (Boston, USA) and has dedicated his entire career to unraveling the molecular mechanisms behind Alzheimer's disease. With his work, Selkoe has had a fundamental effect on opinion about essential cell biology processes - such as protein transport - an about neurodegenerative conditions including Parkinson's Disease, Huntington's Disease and Alzheimer's Disease and other forms of dementia.
"It is important to strike before the brain starts to degenerate", according to Dennis J. Selkoe. "And according to the most recent data, for patients with Alzheimer's disease this can be as early as 20 to 25 years before the first memory problems are confirmed." Therefore, according to Selkoe, it is not surprising that the most recent clinical studies - on people with mild to moderate dementia - did not result in the anticipated breakthrough: in these studies, we only start treatment once the brain has already suffered irreparable damage.
The fruits of 30 years of research
"Thirty years of Alzheimer's research has taught us a lot", according to Selkoe. "We have unraveled a complex network of dozens of bio-molecules and cell components that are involved in one way or another in the development and the evolution of Alzheimer's Disease. A field of research that still provides new elements and new insights every day." It is as if the scientists are completing a complex puzzle. Each new piece gives a better insight into the whole of the puzzle. To date we have succeeded in placing hundreds of pieces of the puzzle, but nobody knows exactly how big the whole puzzle will be. They started 30 years ago with laying just two pieces: the β-amyloid protein (involved in the formation of the Alzheimer's plaques) and the tau protein (the important component of Alzheimer's tangles).*
The pharmaceutical industry has tested roughly eighty Alzheimer medicines. Some in more advanced phases of study than others. There has been no significant breakthrough yet. However, Selkoe feels that these studies have taught us a lot. "The failures have resulted in disappointment for patients, their families, doctors and scientists. However, these efforts are not lost. On the contrary, they have taught us what might work and what will not and the steps that we need to take from here. Based on these studies, we can set out new directions to target this condition."
Much earlier diagnosis and treatment