28 April 2008
Milan Fiala, MD, UCLA Orthopedic Hospital, has been chosen as the recipient of the 2008 Alzheimer Award presented by the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease in recognition of his outstanding work, "Phagocytosis of amyloid-beta and inflammation: Two faces of innate immunity in Alzheimer’s disease" by M. Fiala, D.H. Cribbs, M. Rosenthal and G. Bernard (July 2007, JAD 11(4): 457-63). Each year the Associate Editors of the journal select an outstanding article from the previous year's volume for this prestigious award.
“I am very grateful for the recognition of our laboratory’s work by the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease,” said Dr. Fiala. “This award belongs to all of my collaborators as well.”
Dr. Fiala’s work suggests that Alzheimer’s disease is a failure of the immune system to keep the brain clear from waste products of neuronal chemistries (the most important waste is called amyloid-beta, in particular “oligomeric” amyloid-beta in neurons). This concept of Alzheimer’s disease can be compared to uremia when kidneys fail to clear the uremic waste products of body chemistries. In the brain, clearance of waste is difficult because the transport mechanisms across the brain “firewall” (called the “blood-brain barrier”) are restricted. The immune cells have the ability to cross the firewall, clean amyloid-beta and protect neurons, but in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, these cells somehow lose the ability to keep neurons healthy. In fact, these immune cells may be over-doing the cleaning task and become inflamed, and then cause damage to the brain as they do to an inflamed joint. Fortunately, in parallel with these mechanistic discoveries, Dr. Fiala’s collaborative research is showing that the immune system of patients can be improved, at least in a test tube, using natural products, such as curcuminoids from turmeric. Therefore, Dr. Fiala is developing a blood test of immune deficiency (so-called “amyloid-beta stress test”) and new ways of immune treatment as an all-inclusive approach to Alzheimer’s disease detection and prevention.
“We hope that these discoveries will lead to an all-inclusive approach to Alzheimer’s disease — detection at an early stage and improvement of the immune system using immunostimulating therapies (e.g curcuminoids) or anti-inflammatory therapies (similar to those used in joint disorders) according to the state of the immune system.,” stated Dr. Fiala.
Dr. Fiala is a Research Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at UCLA, Los Angeles, California. He received his initial training at the University of Charles IV, Prague, Czechoslovakia and his MD degree at the University of Geneva, Switzerland. He obtained a MSc (Epidemiology) from Harvard School of Public Health. He pursued translational research in respiratory, herpes and retroviruses viruses at the University of Washington, the University of Pennsylvania and UCLA, and his work played key role in controlling infections of immunocompromised patients.
In the last decade, Dr. Fiala has developed a modification of the amyloid-beta hypothesis suggesting that the underlying problem of Alzheimer’s disease patients lies in the defectiveness of the innate immune system to clear amyloid-beta in the brain. Dr. Fiala’s laboratory is situated in the Orthopaedic Hospital Research Center and includes key UCLA collaborators: John Adams, MD; Martin Hewison, PhD; Philip T. Liu, PhD; Araceli Espinosa-Jeffrey, PhD; Mark J. Rosenthal, MD; John M. Ringman, MD; and research staff including many gifted students. External collaborators include John Cashman, PhD, HBRI, San Diego; Naoyuki Taniguchi, Osaka University; and Albert S. Lossinsky, New Jersey Neuroscience Institute, Edison, New Jersey.
This annual award, generously sponsored by Elan Pharmaceuticals, will be presented to Dr. Fiala at the International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease 2008 held in Chicago in July.