October 30, 2014

Major Breakthrough: Alzheimer's in a Dish - Dr. Rudy Tanzi

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Highlights from our Alzheimer’s Talk with Dr. Rudy Tanzi:

Dr. Rudy Tanzi has made headlines all over the world for leading the team that made a major breakthrough: They replicated Alzheimer’s outside of the brain. Dubbed “Alzheimer’s in a dish,” this discovery gives Dr. Tanzi, his team, and researchers around the world the ability to test thousands of drugs faster than ever before – speeding the way to a way to a cure for Alzheimer’s. Here are just some of the key points Dr. Rudy Tanzi, Vice-Chair of Neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, addressed in our conversation:

  1. Essentially, Dr. Tanzi’s team created a model of the brain using a 3D matrix of gel. Six weeks after introducing genes to make amyloid from human stem cells, there was evidence of full-blown plaques. A little later, tangles appeared – just like those that occur in the brain. For the first time, Alzheimer’s pathology from amyloid to tangles was captured in a dish.
  2. Never before has the precise pathology of Alzheimer’s disease been replicated.
  3. With “Alzheimer’s in a dish,” we can now start screening potential drugs 10 times faster and cheaper than ever before. Dr. Tanzi plans to begin testing thousands of drugs that are currently being investigated.
  4. Prevention trials can take years and be extremely expensive. And, by the time a pharmaceutical company is done with a trial, its patent life might be over. Dr. Tanzi’s discovery creates an avenue for cheaper, broader-scale testing.
  5. Furthermore, researchers don’t yet know the precise right molecular target for preventing Alzheimer’s disease. One could spend $2 billion on a five-year prevention trial targeting the wrong molecule. Dr. Tanzi’s research will enable more strategic spending.

If you missed the talk – or would like to hear it again – you can listen to an audio playback or read a transcript of this illuminating conversation.