Improving Health & Medicine

June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month

E-news, June 2018 • TAGS: Neuroscience, Brain, Alzheimers

What would we be without our brains? They hold our memories, our sense of humor, our ability to do math in our heads or dance or cook, to know all the world’s capitols or cite Shakespeare – they make us us.

As the number of older people in the world continues to rise, so do brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s – and no one wants to lose the essence of who they are.

Fortunately, Weizmann Institute scientists have been working to strengthen the mechanisms that promote healthy aging and find new and better ways of treating disease once it occurs.

June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month – always a great time to take a look at a few examples of the Institute’s current neuroscience research.

Prof. Ido Amit is studying microglia – a type of cell, present throughout the brain and central nervous system, that serves as a sort of housecleaner. He has found that the microglia that work to rid the brain of the toxic amyloid plaques seen in Alzheimer’s are a particular type, and seem to alter their cleaning levels to match the activities of the plaques. However, if the microglia go overboard, their efforts could actually help the disease spread. Prof. Amit hopes to soon develop a way to boost the plaque-fighting microglia, thus creating a novel treatment for Alzheimer’s.

Prof. Amit has long collaborated with Prof. Michal Schwartz, who pioneered the field of neuroimmunity and was first in the world to show that, contrary to commonly held beliefs, the immune system and the brain are connected. She and Prof. Amit even identified the “signature of aging” in the brain: an interface called the choroid plexus.

The two scientists recently developed an antibody that helps restore cognitive abilities and brain cells in mice with Alzheimer’s, thus actually reversing some of the effects of aging on the brain and reducing the level of plaques. Profs. Schwartz and Amit are now developing this research into a vaccine to slow the brain’s aging process.

Talented new materials scientist Dr. Ulyana Shimanovich is inspired by silk – the super-strong nanoscale fibrils produced by silkworms and spiders, and which are very similar to the amyloid plaques of Alzheimer’s. Among other projects, she is investigating whether the natural silk proteins in the silkworm and spider fibrils can be used to prevent the misfolding of proteins seen in human neurodegeneration. Dr. Shimanovich aims to use nature’s powers to treat, even hopefully cure, Alzheimer’s.

And as part of Weizmann’s ambitious new Center for Advanced and Intelligent Materials, Dr. Shimanovich will have the infrastructure and support she needs to expand her truly novel work.

To paraphrase what is often said about artists, a scientist is only as good as the tools at their disposal – which is why Weizmann’s new Azrieli Center for Human Brain Imaging is so exciting. The super-high-tech facility will house one of the world’s few 7-Tesla MRI machines, allowing incredible insight into the workings of the brain. And in the spirit of sharing that is a hallmark of Weizmann, the Azrieli Center can be used by researchers from across Israel.

Together we can find new understanding and treatment for Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases – this month and every month.

Improving Health & Medicine

June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month

E-news, June 2018 • TAGS: Neuroscience , Brain , Alzheimers

What would we be without our brains? They hold our memories, our sense of humor, our ability to do math in our heads or dance or cook, to know all the world’s capitols or cite Shakespeare – they make us us.

As the number of older people in the world continues to rise, so do brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s – and no one wants to lose the essence of who they are.

Fortunately, Weizmann Institute scientists have been working to strengthen the mechanisms that promote healthy aging and find new and better ways of treating disease once it occurs.

June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month – always a great time to take a look at a few examples of the Institute’s current neuroscience research.

Prof. Ido Amit is studying microglia – a type of cell, present throughout the brain and central nervous system, that serves as a sort of housecleaner. He has found that the microglia that work to rid the brain of the toxic amyloid plaques seen in Alzheimer’s are a particular type, and seem to alter their cleaning levels to match the activities of the plaques. However, if the microglia go overboard, their efforts could actually help the disease spread. Prof. Amit hopes to soon develop a way to boost the plaque-fighting microglia, thus creating a novel treatment for Alzheimer’s.

Prof. Amit has long collaborated with Prof. Michal Schwartz, who pioneered the field of neuroimmunity and was first in the world to show that, contrary to commonly held beliefs, the immune system and the brain are connected. She and Prof. Amit even identified the “signature of aging” in the brain: an interface called the choroid plexus.

The two scientists recently developed an antibody that helps restore cognitive abilities and brain cells in mice with Alzheimer’s, thus actually reversing some of the effects of aging on the brain and reducing the level of plaques. Profs. Schwartz and Amit are now developing this research into a vaccine to slow the brain’s aging process.

Talented new materials scientist Dr. Ulyana Shimanovich is inspired by silk – the super-strong nanoscale fibrils produced by silkworms and spiders, and which are very similar to the amyloid plaques of Alzheimer’s. Among other projects, she is investigating whether the natural silk proteins in the silkworm and spider fibrils can be used to prevent the misfolding of proteins seen in human neurodegeneration. Dr. Shimanovich aims to use nature’s powers to treat, even hopefully cure, Alzheimer’s.

And as part of Weizmann’s ambitious new Center for Advanced and Intelligent Materials, Dr. Shimanovich will have the infrastructure and support she needs to expand her truly novel work.

To paraphrase what is often said about artists, a scientist is only as good as the tools at their disposal – which is why Weizmann’s new Azrieli Center for Human Brain Imaging is so exciting. The super-high-tech facility will house one of the world’s few 7-Tesla MRI machines, allowing incredible insight into the workings of the brain. And in the spirit of sharing that is a hallmark of Weizmann, the Azrieli Center can be used by researchers from across Israel.

Together we can find new understanding and treatment for Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases – this month and every month.