Metlife Foundation recognizes Emory Alzheimer's disease researcher

May 15th, 2014
Lary C. Walker, PhD, research professor of neuropharmacology and neurologic diseases and associate professor of neurology, Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University, is a recipient of the 2014 MetLife Foundation Awards for Medical Research. The winners were recognized at a scientific briefing and awards ceremony today in New York.

Walker was recognized with his Germany-based colleague Mathias Jucker, PhD, for pioneering a unifying principle for the onset and evolution of late-life brain disorders, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, based on similarities with rare, fatal disorders known as prion diseases. Jucker is full professor at the Hertie Institute for Clinical Brain Research and German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Tübingen, Germany.

Together, Walker and Jucker have amassed compelling experimental evidence that small aggregates of the basic proteins in prion diseases act as seeds that start a domino-like chain reaction that causes similar proteins to aggregate and spread the disease throughout the brain. They have jointly published a number of seminal papers on the seeding concept in age-related brain diseases, beginning with a study in Science in 2006, and their work has decisively established the seeding model as a comprehensive mechanistic explanation for the abnormal assembly of proteins and their spread through the brain in many of the devastating, untreatable brain diseases that affect humans.

Examples of their accomplishments include finding: protein-rich seeds of aggregated amyloid-beta (Aβ) underlie both the emergence and progression of Aβ abnormalities in the brains of animals; variations in the size and molecular structure of these seeds profoundly influence their disease-causing characteristics; and small, soluble collections of Aβ are especially potent seeds and are key targets for therapeutic intervention and possibly also early biomarkers of Alzheimer's disease in bodily fluids.

"I am thrilled to receive this award, which has honored so many pioneering Alzheimer's researchers during the past quarter century," says Walker. "I am indebted to the many colleagues and students who have made my research possible, and to the Yerkes National Primate Research Center and Emory University for their continuing support."

According to recent estimates, without the development of treatments that either delay Alzheimer's disease onset or slow its progression, by 2050 more than 100 million people worldwide will be living with Alzheimer's disease. The time spent caring for people with Alzheimer's disease will be measured in billions of hours, and the cost will be trillions of dollars.

At the heart of the MetLife awards is a belief that research is the road to understanding and ultimately treating Alzheimer's disease. Walker's award comes with a $100,000 institutional grant, which he will use to further his research with his colleagues at Yerkes, Emory, Georgia Tech and the University of Tübingen to better understand how Alzheimer's disease progresses through the brain and why the disease affects people in different ways.

"We are proud of Dr. Walker and his many scientific achievements," says Stuart Zola, PhD, director of the Yerkes Research Center. "His research findings today are shaping the research of tomorrow, and the ultimate benefit will be improved health for our nation and the world."

Provided by Emory University

This Phys.org Science News Wire page contains a press release issued by an organization mentioned above and is provided to you “as is” with little or no review from Phys.Org staff.

More news stories

Cadillac CT6 will get streaming video mirror

Cadillac said Thursday it will add high resolution streaming video to the function of a rearview mirror, so that the driver's vision and safety can be enhanced. The technology will debut on the 2016 Cadillac ...

Off-world manufacturing is a go with space printer

On Friday, the BBC reported on a NASA email exchange with a space station which involved astronauts on the International Space Station using their 3-D printer to make a wrench from instructions sent up in ...

Ancient clay seals may shed light on biblical era

Impressions from ancient clay seals found at a small site in Israel east of Gaza are signs of government in an area thought to be entirely rural during the 10th century B.C., says Mississippi State University archaeologist ...

Why the Sony hack isn't big news in Japan

Japan's biggest newspaper, Yomiuri Shimbun, featured a story about Sony Corp. on its website Friday. It wasn't about hacking. It was about the company's struggling tablet business.

Hopes, fears, doubts surround Cuba's oil future

One of the most prolific oil and gas basins on the planet sits just off Cuba's northwest coast, and the thaw in relations with the United States is giving rise to hopes that Cuba can now get in on the action.

Recorded Ebola deaths top 7,000

The worst Ebola outbreak on record has now killed more than 7,000 people, with many of the latest deaths reported in Sierra Leone, the World Health Organization said as United Nations Secretary-General Ban ...