Südhof wins MetLife Award

Dr. Thomas Südhof, director of the C. Vincent Prothro Center for Research in Basic Neuroscience, has been named co-recipient of MetLife Foundation's Award for Medical Research in Alzheimer's Disease in recognition of his contributions to understanding the illness.

Dr. Südhof received a $200,000 grant to further his Alzheimer's research and a $50,000 personal award from the foundation. The award was presented in January at a special ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Also director of the Gill Center for Research on Brain Cell Communication, Dr. Südhof is internationally known for his studies into the mechanism by which neurons communicate in the brain.

"I'm thrilled to have received this honor. Naturally, without funds there is no research. This money will be a big help in hiring people to work on the basic biology that underlies the disease," he said.

Alzheimer's disease, which affects 4.5 million Americans, is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain that leads to the loss of intellectual abilities, including memory.

In 2001 Dr. Südhof made a breakthrough discovery about the role of a protein involved in the onset of Alzheimer's.

More recently, he found that a specific group of brain proteins, alpha-Neurexins, is essential to activate communication between neurons, and, without this group of proteins, all functions of the central nervous system are disrupted.

Dr. Südhof also has been cited for his discovery of the neurexin-neuroligin system of neuron-specific membrane proteins. This highly diverse family of more than 500 members, each expressed in different cellular regions of the brain, plays a role in establishing specific contacts between different sets of neurons.

"Thomas Südhof's intense focus on the synapse has revealed many new insights into how neurons communicate with each other," said Dr. Joseph Goldstein, chairman of molecular genetics and a 1985 Nobel laureate.

"One of his key discoveries was the identification of synaptotagmin as the calcium sensor that regulates release of neurotransmitters from synaptic vesicles. In more recent studies, Dr. Südhof discovered that the amyloid precursor protein (APP) that causes Alzheimer's disease moves from the plasma membrane to the nucleus where it acts as a transcription factor - a totally unexpected finding that is generating much excitement in the Alzheimer's field."

Dr. Südhof, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and an investigator in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at UT Southwestern, holds the Gill Distinguished Chair in Neuroscience Research and the Loyd B. Sands Distinguished Chair in Neuroscience.

Dr. Roberto Malinow of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York was the co-recipient.


Media Contact: Amy Shields