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Making Memories Last a Lifetime: Alzheimer’s Research Forum Emphasizes Collaboration, Support
February 11, 2014
At Temple’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Reception (L-R): Domenico Praticò, MD; Congressman Chaka Fattah; Walter Koch, PhD; Arthur Feldman, MD, PhD; and State Representative Tim Hennessey.
On February 9, Temple University School of Medicine held a special gathering in Philadelphia to thank the philanthropists who support Alzheimer’s research at Temple – and to introduce them to experts who, thanks to their generosity, are forging progress in the field.
Arthur Feldman, MD, PhD, Executive Dean of the School of Medicine, hosted the event along with School and University officials. The gathering drew families affected by Alzheimer’s, representatives of government and industry, and other individuals concerned about the disease that affects 35 million worldwide.
In his opening remarks, Dr. Feldman emphasized the importance of private support, cross-sector collaboration and translational research. All are necessary for tackling a disease as endemic and complex as Alzheimer’s.
“Without private donations, important research could not be done,” he said. With dwindling resources government resources, private support must augment public support.
To emphasize the point, two government officials joined the speaker lineup: State Representative Tim Hennessey, Chair of the House Committee on Aging, and U.S. Congressman Chaka Fattah, a national champion of brain research.
“The impact of Alzheimer’s is too great for us not to pour more energy and funding into finding a cure,” said Fattah, who also helped shepherd Temple University’s recent alliance with Penn Medicine, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, and Israel Brain Technologies. The organizations in this international alliance will collaborate on neurodegenerative disease research, helping to translate discoveries from the laboratory to the marketplace.
Translational research, said Walter Koch, PhD, the W.W. Smith Chair in Cardiovascular Medicine, is the process of fast-tracking discoveries made in the laboratory into practical application. Dr. Koch also serves as Chair of Pharmacology and Director of the Center for Translational Medicine. One of his faculty members, Domenico Praticò, MD, a leading Alzheimer’s investigator, spoke next.
Dr. Praticò said that his work would be impossible without private and public support. He spoke about why he chose Alzheimer’s as his focus and how it feels to make an important discovery. “Making memories last a lifetime” is the motto that inspires his work, each and every day.
Dr. Praticò expressed gratitude to all the individuals and agencies that have supported his work – and gave special recognition to Randal J. McDowell, Esq., who recently helped facilitate more than $350,000 in funding to his lab.
Outside support has made many findings possible, said Dr. Praticò. One is the discovery that excess production of 12/15-Lipoxygenase, a protein in the brain, leads to the development of plaques characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease. Another is the identification of two compounds that show promise for blocking or modulating that excess expression.
Dr. Praticò also found that that high levels of the stress hormone corticosteroid activate a protein called 5-lipoxygenase that damage the synapse, resulting in memory and learning impairment, key symptoms of Alzheimer’s. The hypothesis is that if you block 5-lipoxygenase, you can probably block the negative effects of corticosteroid in the brain.
“Alzheimer’s is a disease that steals what makes us human – our memories, our cognitive abilities,” said Dr. Praticò, whose findings have been published in the Annals of Neurology, Aging Cell, and other journals. “We face bankrupting our nation—financially, physically and emotionally—unless we find a cure. Waiting is more expensive than acting. We need to act now,” he said.
In his concluding comments, Dr. Feldman said, “Outstanding researchers such as Dr. Praticò, are making the discoveries necessary to treat this growing epidemic. With support, we will continue to work diligently to unlock the secrets of Alzheimer’s disease.”
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