I am driven to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease
Karen Hsiao Ashe has devoted her life to finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Her peers regard her as one of the world’s top researchers of the disease.
“Research is sort of like a baseball game. Not much happens for a while, and then someone hits a home run.” Karen Hsiao Ashe, Professor Click to tweet
Among her discoveries, she found that clumps of a tangled-up protein found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients don’t cause the disease. But that particular brain protein, known as tau, does play a key role. The tangles are clumps of an abnormal form of the protein.
Ashe’s research revealed that a key event in the development of memory loss in mice happens when an enzyme called caspase-2 splits the normal tau protein in two. This produces a fragment of tau that goes on to interfere with normal brain functioning. Keeping the enzyme from splitting tau, she showed, helps mice recover memory capacity.
Ashe now hopes to find a drug that will do the same in human patients. One University colleague—Michael Walters—and his team are screening chemicals, looking for this kind of therapeutic potential. If Ashe can align all the necessary public and private resources to develop—and win FDA approval for—a drug to inhibit caspase-2 safely and effectively in humans, she says it could be ready to market in about 10 years.