Center for Translational Neurodegeneration Research Overview

The Center for Translational Neurodegeneration Research was created at UT Southwestern Medical Center with a $2 million challenge grant. Renowned physician-scientist Joachim Herz, M.D., Professor of Molecular Genetics and Neuroscience, directs the Center. Recruitment is underway for faculty members.

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 hippocampus, and mutations correlate with Alzheimer’s disease, Dr. Herz and his colleagues recently discovered.

In 2007 Dr. Herz received 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.