Science and Tech News in Brief: Researchers given prestigious award for key Alzheimer’s work – The Post

Science and Tech News in Brief: Researchers given prestigious award for key Alzheimer’s work

Elsewhere, a historic protected bridge is torn down and Danes send water help to Cape Town

Hailed for their work (photo: Lundbeckfonden)
March 13th, 2018 5:00 pm| by Christian W

Four researchers – Baart De Strooper (Belgium), Michel Goedert (Luxembourg), Christian Haass (Germany) and John Hardy (UK) – have been awarded the noted Brain Prize award for their critical work on Alzheimer’s disease.

The Brain Prize, which is awarded by the Danish foundation Lundbeckfonden, recognises essential advances within the area of neuroscience and has a 1 million euro research prize attached.

“The research of the four prize winners has far-reaching perspectives for our understanding not only of Alzheimer’s disease but of other dementia disorders too,” said Professor Anders Björklund, the head of Lundbeckfonden’s selection committee.

“Their research has provided a foundation for the design of drugs to counter the pathogenic processes. This gives us hope that we will be able to slow Alzheimer’s and perhaps even prevent it.”

READ MORE: Relatives of dementia sufferers often buckle with stress and depression

Spike on the way
There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s, only medication that can put a damper on the symptoms. However, the four winners of the prize have helped pave the road for better treatment and possible prevention in the future.

Alzheimer’s is considered one of the most expensive diseases in the world to treat – in Denmark alone, dementia-related illness costs over 20 billion kroner annually.

The prevalence of Alzheimer’s is expected to triple over the next 30-40 years.


DTU innovation hub praised
EnergyLab Nordhavn, one of the lynchpin projects of the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), was awarded the 2018 Energy and Environment Prize last week. EnergyLab Nordhavn was praised for its innovative approach to developing the intelligent and integrated energy systems of the future. The solutions being developed in Nordhavn can be copied and utilised in many cities across the planet. A total of nine PhDs and four postdocs are attached to the project, which is supported by the EUDP and led by the Centre for Electric Power and Energy, DTU Elektro.

A bridge no more
An error has led to a protected bridge being torn down and replaced in south Jutland. Fiskebæk Bridge, which was located south of Toftlund and was over 200 years old, was listed as protected, but that didn’t stop a construction team tearing it down and replacing it with a big PVC pipe that instead leads Fiskebæk brook under the road. The engineering firm responsible for the renovation said it had looked into whether the bridge was protected but was under the impression it was not. Meanwhile, Tønder Municipality has admitted that a mistake had been made “somewhere down the line”. The municipality still has the remains of the historic bridge in its possession.

Danish aqua assistance to Cape Town
As Cape Town continues to struggle with a water crisis, Denmark has agreed to send a technical advisor to the South African city to help it switch its water supply to ground water. In Denmark, 100 percent of the water supply comes from ground water sources, compared to just 15 percent in South Africa. Should South Africa follow the Danish model, it could significantly reduce the risk of water shortages during future drought periods. The Danish contribution is a result of a government co-operation that has existed since 2016 and entails providing knowledge and expertise about ground water, water waste, efficiency in industry and the financing of the water sector.

Brain prize winners

By the 1990s, prize winner Christian Haass already knew that beta-amyloid is not the result of pathogenic process but that the protein forms naturally from precursors. Haass also identified and described the secretase enzymes that control its formation. Thanks to Haass’s research, we now know that the accumulation of beta-amyloid between brain cells is due to an imbalance in the production and clearance of amyloid.

Bart De Strooper’s significant contribution was to describe in detail how the secretases are constructed and how they function. This insight led to the development of drugs that either lower production or increase the clearance of beta-amyloid.

Michel Goedert has proved that the tau protein is the most important constituent of the tangles we see inside the neurons in Alzheimer’s. Goedert was also instrumental in proving it likely that tau itself plays a role in the development of Alzheimer’s.

John Hardy’s work focuses on the genetic mutations that can cause Alzheimer’s. In rare cases, Alzheimer’s is inherited, and there are families in which the risk of contracting the disease from one parent is 50 percent. Based on his genetic studies, John Hardy and his co-workers were the driving force behind the hypothesis that the accumulation of beta-amyloid is the cause of Alzheimer’s.