Karen Duff receives prestigious prize for Alzheimer's research

Karen E.K. Duff, Ph.D., a research scientist at the Nathan Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research in Orangeburg, New York, and an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine, will receive the 2006 Potamkin Prize from the American Academy of Neurology. The prize recognizes outstanding research in Alzheimer's and related neurodegenerative brain diseases, and is considered one of the most prestigious in the field of Alzheimer's research. Dr. Duff is one of three recipients of the prize, which will be awarded April 4 in San Diego at the academy's annual meeting.

Dr. Duff is a young British scientist widely known for her innovative work in developing transgenic mouse "models" of age-related human brain diseases. Until recently, scientists couldn't pinpoint the role of defective genes in causing or contributing to the death of neurons in the brain. Dr. Duff devised a way to insert human disease-causing genes into mice, creating genetically engineered mice that can be used to understand the underlying mechanisms of disease, and to test potential treatments. Drug companies have used her models to test proprietary experimental therapies for Alzheimer's.

Early in her career Dr. Duff created the first mouse model of mutations in the gene called presenilin 1, a protein found in families with early-onset Alzheimer's disease. She also bred transgenic mice carrying the presenilin mutation and the human gene for the plaque-forming protein amyloid beta, which litters the brains of Alzheimer's patients. These doubly transgenic mice develop abundant plaques in the brain.

Since moving to the Nathan Kline Institute almost eight years ago, Dr. Duff has coordinated extensive studies to examine how amyloid beta accumulation affects the brain. She also has used her transgenic mice to evaluate cholesterol's impact on Alzheimer's, and how drugs that lower cholesterol may be beneficial. Most recently, she has developed mouse models


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