2005 Potamkin Prize goes to neurologists for research in early detection of Alzheimer's disease


Presented at the American Academy of Neurology 57th Annual Meeting

ST. PAUL, Minn. The American Academy of Neurology (AAN) will award the 2005 Potamkin Prize for Research in Pick's, Alzheimer's and Related Diseases to John C. Morris, MD, and Ronald C. Petersen, PhD, MD. The $100,000 Potamkin Prize will be awarded April 12 at the AAN Annual Meeting in Miami Beach, Fla.

Often called the "Nobel Prize of Neurology," the Potamkin Prize honors and rewards researchers for their work in helping advance the understanding of Alzheimer's disease and related disorders.

Morris is the Friedman Distinguished Professor of Neurology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Mo., and director of the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at Washington University.

Petersen is a professor of neurology at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minn., and director of the Mayo Alzheimer's Disease Research Center.

Morris' research has focused on early stage Alzheimer's disease. "Intense interest in prodromal stages of Alzheimer's disease has prompted consideration of early detection methods," he said. "The Washington University Alzheimer's Disease Research Center approach incorporates informant observations with patient evaluations and results in the accurate identification of the earliest symptomatic stage of the disease. Current efforts focus on detection of preclinical Alzheimer's, prior to the onset of symptoms, using imaging modalities and assays of biological fluids."

John H. Growdon, MD, of Harvard University, who chaired the committee that selected the Prize recipients, said, "Dr. Morris' research has sharpened the boundary between truly healthy brain aging and incipient Alzheimer's disease. After establishing sensitive methods to distinguish Alzheimer's, he went on to show that amyloid plaques histologically signal the onset of AD years and possibly decades before clinical signs of dementia emerge. His findings point to a pre-clinical stage of AD that is an ideal target for potential disease-modifying therapies, and have stimulated an intensive search for sensitive predictive biomarkers of AD."

Petersen's research has focused on mild cognitive impairment (MCI). "This represents the earliest clinical features of the disorder that will ultimately become Alzheimer's disease," Petersen said. "Currently, several treatment trials for MCI are being completed and reported. It is hoped that by identifying the earliest features of the Alzheimer's process before the disease is fully developed, we will be able to intervene at an earlier stage and prevent the damage from being done."

Growdon said, "Dr. Petersen's Potamkin recognition stems from his seminal contributions in establishing the concept of mild cognitive impairment as a bona fide diagnostic category on the continuum between normal aging and early dementia. The impact of MCI has been enormous, and has transformed clinical and basic science research."

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