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LCSB wins Global NeuroDiscovery Challenge

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Published on Friday, 08 November 2013

Luxembourg, 8 November 2013: Neck and neck with Harvard, LCSB scientist Dr. Enrico Glaab yesterday won the public scientific challenge of the US Geoffrey Beene Foundation. The worldwide online vote – in which not only scientists but also interested citizens were allowed to participate – went to him for his entirely novel research concept: he intends to find out why women are at greater risk for Alzheimer’s disease than men.

In a close finish, the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) of the University of Luxembourg came ahead of the US research elites of Harvard University. The team around Enrico Glaab now receives 50,000 US dollars from the Geoffrey Beene Foundation for its research on Alzheimer’s disease.

“We are incredibly excited at this wonderful success,” Enrico Glaab says. A success, the researcher says, which would not have been possible without the support of his colleagues at LCSB and at the University, cooperation partners and many friends. “I performed the data analysis and submitted the text for the first round of the challenge. In the second round, there were several scientists at LCSB involved in the detailed planning of the experiments – and in the end many people were impressed by our video and gave us their vote.” Glaab’s project combines experimental data with computer-aided analyses. The cooperation between experimental and computer scientists – which is especially promoted at LCSB – was very important for the final round of the challenge.

For its 2013 “Geoffrey Beene Global NeuroDiscovery Challenge”, the foundation made extensive use of the Internet: Once experts had chosen three finalists from the original 800 challenge entries from 62 countries – two from the USA and one from Luxembourg – the finalists had to present their suggestions with video presentations and generally comprehensible texts on the web. That way, ordinary citizens and scientists could vote on them online.

At a live event at the New York Academy of Sciences, a committee of prominent leaders in science and industry gave its final pronouncement. The verdict on the three groups was weighted – and Enrico Glaab pronounced victor.

The research:

Aging is considered the most important risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, yet elderly women are afflicted by this neurodegenerative disease much more frequently than men. Studies of the aging human brain also show a difference in the activity of specific genes between men and women – sometimes with considerable ramifications on the risk of Alzheimer’s. Enrico Glaab has identified one such gene, called USP9: This gene is much more active in the brain of healthy men than in men with Alzheimer’s. In women the gene shows no such statistically significant differences – whether healthy or ill, it is nearly equally active in both cases. The gene also acts as a regulator in many cellular processes associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The research question that motivates Enrico Glaab is: Does the elevated activity of the USP9 gene in men provide protection against Alzheimer’s? With the endowment from the Geoffrey Beene Foundation, he and his team now intend to test their hypothesis – and find out whether preventative approaches against Alzheimer’s can be derived from it.

Watch the video on our research webpage: www.uni.lu/lcsb/research