Alzheimer’s Expert Honored for Research

August 07, 2006

Berislav Zlokovic, M.D., Ph.D.

A scientist whose findings about Alzheimer’s disease are leading to new attempts to stop the illness has been honored for his research.

Berislav Zlokovic, M.D., Ph.D., professor in the Department of Neurosurgery and director of the Frank P. Smith Laboratories for Neurosurgical Research, was honored by the Institute for the Study of Aging and by Elan Pharmaceuticals for his work on novel approaches to drug discovery for Alzheimer’s disease. He is one of four scientists around the nation chosen for the award.

Much of the work by Zlokovic, who is known internationally for his work on stroke as well as Alzheimer’s, focuses on the crucial role of blood vessels. He has shown that blood circulation plays a key role in ridding the brain of the toxic amyloid beta that speckles the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. His team has identified much of the molecular machinery that allows amyloid beta to sidestep the body’s safeguards and enter the brain, and he has discovered the molecules that falter when the toxic protein accumulates in the brain. His laboratory is working on ways to increase the action of a molecule known as LRP, which hauls amyloid beta away, and lessen the activity of RAGE, which escorts the toxic protein into the brain.

In previous research in the laboratory he has developed ways to knock out RAGE; when his group disabled the molecule in mice, those animals were completely fine and did not develop an Alzheimer’s-like illness like their RAGE-filled counterparts. Partly as a result of Zlokovic’s work, drugs that target RAGE are being tested in people in a completely new effort to prevent or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s. Such drugs would complement other current medications – all tested at the University – that doctors use to treat patients with the disease.

This is the first year of the ISOA/Elan award program. ISOA is a biomedical venture philanthropy founded by the Estee Lauder family to accelerate the discovery and development of new drugs to prevent, treat and cure Alzheimer's disease and related dementias. Elan Pharmaceuticals, Inc., is a neuroscience-based biotechnology company. The award includes $130,000 toward Zlokovic’s research program.

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