Center for Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases

A new Center for Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases has been created at UT Southwestern Medical Center with a $2 million challenge grant. The center will be directed by renowned physician-scientist Joachim Herz, M.D., Professor of Molecular Genetics and Neuroscience. Recruitment is underway for faculty members in the center.

Dr. Herz is noted for his groundbreaking research into how a mutation in a single protein triggers the devastation of Alzheimer’s disease, which affects 5.3 million Americans and is the country’s seventh-leading cause of death.

Dr. Herz’s most recent work focuses on the study of Apolipoprotein E receptors. The receptors can greatly change the sensitivity of neurons over the course of a single day, affecting how strongly nerve cells interact with each other. This modulation is especially important in the hipoocampus, and mutations correlate with Alzheimer’s disease, Dr. Herz and his colleagues recently discovered.

In 2007, Dr. Herz was awarded Germany’s highly respected Heinrich Wieland Prize for his research related to lipid and cholesterol regulation. He was cited for his discovery of novel and essential functions of lipoprotein receptors in the transmission of signals between cells. His research team identified important signaling pathways that control not only critical steps during embryonic organ development, but also in the brain, where they are required for memory processes and for protecting nerve cells from premature death during aging.