I started out working on multiple sclerosis in Boston in the eighties, but then things began exploding in the Alzheimer’s field and I couldn’t resist changing directions.
Harvard Medical School was one of the key places where people were working on Alzheimer’s and the excitement was infectious. The amyloid precursor protein gene had just been cloned and that helped us begin to understand how the disease works.
Those were heady days of people thinking they could cure Alzheimer’s in a short while. While we now know it’s a far more complicated disease than we appreciated, the advancements just haven’t stopped.
Research moves along and sometimes it may seem like there is no end in sight. But I think the fact we now understand some of the genetic causes and other risk factors, and the fact we are actually moving into some real human therapies are important. And the potential for biomarkers that show who is at a risk, instead of waiting for clinical testing, is a huge event.
If we keep up at the same pace, it’s pretty certain some breakthrough is going to happen. Alzheimer’s disease is a major focus of research around the world. All you have to do is look at the scientific journals to see that so much is happening.
We know neurons die and people get dementia. And now we’re following the trail back to find the culprit. That’s why I still like this work. It’s why I haven’t retired and gone sailing. And I like sailing a lot.
Tanz Centre researcher