16 February 2011. This year’s Potamkin Prize for Research in Pick's, Alzheimer's, and Related Diseases goes to Dennis Dickson of the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, and wife-and-husband team Eva-Maria and Eckhard Mandelkow, who both have laboratories at the Max Planck Unit for Structural Molecular Biology in Hamburg, Germany. The researchers will split a $100,000 prize sponsored by the Potamkin family of New York, Philadelphia, and Miami. The prestigious awards will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology Annual Meeting in Hawaii, 9-16 April 2011.
Dickson is being honored for his characterization of human tauopathies, including Pick’s disease and various forms of frontotemporal lobar degeneration, such as corticobasal degeneration and progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP). Dickson was instrumental in discovering that it is not so much the nature of the rogue tau protein that determines the form of neurodegeneration that emerges, but where in the brain the protein is produced (see ARF related news story; Josephs et al., 2009). In frontotemporal dementia and corticobasal syndrome, tau pathology is predominantly in the cortex, for example, whereas in variants of PSP that include symptoms of parkinsonism, there is more pathology in subcortical regions including the globus pallidus, subthalamic nuclei, and the substantia nigra (for a review, see Dickson et al., 2010). Most recently, Dickson and colleagues found distinct patterns of tau deposition in Alzheimer’s and PSP (Dugger et al., 2011).
The Mandelkows are being recognized for their extensive work on the molecular characterization of normal and toxic forms of tau (see ARF related news story). Just this week they published a new study in the Journal of Neuroscience showing that soluble forms of the protein with a propensity for aggregation may be the most toxic tau entities (see ARF related news story). They are also pursuing small molecules that can prevent tau toxicity as potential drug leads for Alzheimer’s and other tauopathies (see Bulic et al., 2009). The Mandelkows also shared last year’s MetLife Award for Medical Research in Alzheimer’s Disease (see ARF related news story). Congratulations to the tau trio from Alzforum’s writers and editors.—Tom Fagan.