UCI researcher receives MetLife award for Alzheimer's research

Frank LaFerlals



Frank LaFerla

UC Irvine neurobiologist Frank LaFerla today was recognized as a "Promising Work" recipient of the 2005 MetLife Foundation Award for Medical Research in Alzheimer's disease. He is one of three researchers to receive the award this year for his significant contributions to the understanding of Alzheimer's disease.

LaFerla, a professor of neurobiology and behavior and co-director of the Institute for Brain Aging and Dementia, will receive a $100,000 grant to be used to further his research. He was recognized today by the MetLife Foundation at an awards luncheon in Washington, D.C.

"I am honored to receive this award and thankful to MetLife Foundation for supporting basic research in this important field," LaFerla said. "Alzheimer's disease is a devastating neurological disorder that affects millions of people and has a significant impact on our economy. We need to invest more in basic research so that we have the tools to understand and ultimately treat this disease."

LaFerla is one of two "Promising Work" winners of the award this year, a distinction he shares with Christian Haass of Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, Germany. Dr. Karen Hsiao Ashe of the University of Minnesota Medical School and Minneapolis VA Center also received the award for her major work in Alzheimer's disease.

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder, affecting 4.5 million to 5 million adults in the United States. If no effective therapies are developed, it is estimated that 13 million Americans will be afflicted with the disease by 2050. It is the third most expensive disease to treat and the third leading cause of death, behind cancer and coronary heart disease.

In recent years, LaFerla has been at the forefront of Alzheimer's research and has made a number of significant strides in understanding the molecular development of the disease. He and other members of his UCI research team were the first to create a genetically altered mouse that allowed for the study of the two signature lesions of Alzheimer's disease -- plaques and tangles. His work determined that chronic nicotine exposure worsens some Alzheimer-related brain abnormalities, contradicting the common belief that nicotine can actually be used to treat the disease. He also was principle investigator of a study that identified the protein beta amyloid and its buildup within neurons as the trigger that marks the onset of memory decline in Alzheimer's.

"Frank has done some brilliant work in the field of Alzheimer's research," said Susan V. Bryant, dean of UCI's School of Biological Sciences. "I am proud of his contributions to this important field of study and pleased that MetLife Foundation has recognized his efforts."

Two other UCI researchers previously have been recognized by MetLife Foundation for their work on Alzheimer's disease: Carl Cotman, professor of neurology and behavior and director of the Institute for Brain Aging and Dementia, in 1988; and Douglas Wallace, Donald Bren Professor of Biological Sciences and Molecular Medicine and director of the Center for Molecular and Mitochondrial Medicine and Genetics, in 1999.

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MetLife Foundation was established in 1976 by MetLife to carry on a tradition of corporate contributions and community involvement. MetLife and MetLife Foundation have invested more than $15 million in Alzheimer's research and public information programs. Since its inception in 1986, the foundation has given more than $10 million in personal prizes and grants as part of the Awards for Medical Research program.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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