By Allyse Falce
Scientific advances to speed a cure for neurodegenerative diseases were honored during the November 8 star-studded Breakthrough Prize ceremony.
The Breakthrough Prize, created by some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley — including Google’s Sergey Brin, 23andMe’s Anne Wojcicki, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg — honors individuals who have made significant contributions in the fields of math, fundamental physics and life sciences. Winners take home $3 million.
This year, John Hardy, PhD, of University College London was awarded the prize for uncovering the genetic mutations that can lead to a buildup of protein “plaque” in the brains of people with early-onset Alzheimer’s.
An expert in both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s genetics, Dr. Hardy won The Michael J. Fox Foundation’s Pritzker Prize earlier this year for his 2003 work on the causal role of genetics in Parkinson’s disease
(PD), helping to revolutionize PD drug development.
Dr. Hardy and his colleagues published in Science that triplication of the alpha-synuclein (SNCA) gene caused Parkinson’s in a family with high incidence of the disease. This finding built on earlier research about the SNCA mutation in PD and is the basis for disease-modifying treatments in development today that seek to lower levels of the protein alpha-synuclein, a promising approach to slow or stop Parkinson’s progression.
Only 20 years ago, researchers believed genetics played little to no role in Parkinson’s. Dr. Hardy’s receipt of the Breakthrough Prize is an encouraging sign that our knowledge about PD and genetics has expanded. Alpha-synuclein is one of the most important drug targets, and Dr. Hardy’s work sheds a greater light on how cellular dysfunction can lead to disease.
Karl Deisseroth of Stanford University and Ed Boyden of MIT also received a Breakthrough Prize on November 8 for their work using light signals to treat Parkinson’s disease and other neurological disorders.
See the full list of 2015 Breakthrough Prize winners.
Source:: Fox Feed Blog