VANCOUVER, British Columbia, April 15, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The American Academy of Neurology is awarding the 2016 Potamkin Prize for Research in Pick's, Alzheimer's and Related Diseases to Rosa Rademakers, PhD, of the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., and Bryan Traynor, MD, PhD, of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Md., and member of the American Academy of Neurology.
Rademakers and Traynor will receive the award at the American Academy of Neurology's 68th Annual Meeting in Vancouver, Canada, April 15 to 21, 2016. The Annual Meeting is the world's largest gathering of neurologists with more than 12,000 attendees and more than 2,700 scientific presentations on the latest research advances in brain disease.
The Potamkin Prize honors researchers for their work in helping to advance the understanding of Pick's disease, Alzheimer's disease and related disorders. The $100,000 prize is an internationally recognized tribute for advancing dementia research.
As part of an international consortium, Rademakers and Traynor, independently of each other, discovered a mutation in a gene on chromosome 9 called the C9ORF72 gene. This mutation is the most common identified cause not only for frontotemporal dementia (FTD), but also for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
To find a genetic link between the two was surprising because ALS and FTD look so different clinically. In ALS muscles deteriorate, while in FTD the patient's personality changes dramatically.
"When we realized we found a new and frequent cause for both of these devastating diseases, it was exciting," said Rademakers. "This genetic discovery has opened up new avenues for research by giving us a better understanding of the mechanisms leading to FTD and ALS."
"The nature of this mutation, a small block of DNA repeated over and over again hundreds or even thousands of times, makes it a great target for gene therapy," said Traynor. "One of the first lectures I heard in medical school was how ALS was an awful and mysterious disease so it is incredibly rewarding to have pinpointed a cause. Discovery of the gene mutation has provided people with FTD or ALS a true sense of hope that a treatment is possible. New research is now focused on finding drug therapies that could slow or even stop progression."
"It is an absolute honor to receive this award," said Rademakers. "I feel very privileged to be in the company of such an amazing group of previous awardees, many of whom have mentored and supported me over the years."
Added Traynor, "A large number of people worked on this research so I do not view this as my success, I view it as our success. I am delighted to accept this award on everyone's behalf."
Learn more about dementia, ALS and related diseases at www.aan.com/patients.
The American Academy of Neurology, an association of 30,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as Alzheimer's disease, stroke, migraine, multiple sclerosis, brain injury, Parkinson's disease and epilepsy.
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SOURCE American Academy of Neurology