Friday , June 25 2021

A scientist who wants to fix an "umbrella" that protects us from Alzheimer's

Since her childhood, Maria Jose Diogenes has always wanted to be a scientist. Even today, the course of pharmaceutical sciences, master and doctorate, the university professor fulfills this dream. In fact, it has been done since "the second year of a degree" and is dedicated to researching Alzheimer's disease. It is this research that last year received the recognition of Mantero Belard neuroscience, from Santa Casa da Misericordia in Lisbon.

Research by scientists – and a team of 16 people – from the Institute of Molecular Medicine at the University of Lisbon, aims to repair an "umbrella" that protects our brain from Alzheimer's disease. "The vast majority of people focused on treating Alzheimer's disease in an attempt to completely cure the disease," explains Maria Jose Diogenes, but what makes the team of pharmaceuticals different.

"Even paralysis: Imagine someone walking and suddenly starting to fall intensely. In the brain of a patient with Alzheimer, suppose that the rays are protein accumulated in the brain and what happens to that person with the umbrella (there are many substances in our the brain that protects us) is not functioning, it is interrupted. So, most people try to stop the rain or stop the accumulation of these proteins in the brain, which seems to be the cause of Alzheimer's disease, but few looked at this umbrella that does not work. "

It was exactly where Maria Jose Diogenes looked, and she succeeded: trying to understand why "the molecules that we have in our body and who protect us do not protect us." In order to reach the stage in which they already have a positive-drug medicine, 10 years of "very exhaustive" characterization took place, why this change "we have in the protection system." By this work it was possible to "see the mechanisms involved in the destruction of this protection," a neurotrophic factor that protects a lot, but that in Alzheimer's disease there is a shortage.

Catch a disease that is defying our identity

From the moment the team of Mary Jose Diogenes realized the mechanisms of destruction of the neurotrophic factor, he began to work to prevent this from happening. "We designed the target molecule just to avoid this disorder in the umbrella." Having already done a "series of animal tissue tests" and managed to "show that this drug effectively protects against destroying this umbrella," the team also managed to "change some of the deficits that existed."

At this moment, scientists of this project, who received a 200,000-euro award from Santa Casa, begin a series of experiments "on animals that have changes that alter Alzheimer's disease to see if this drugn alive these animals can regain lost memory, "explains the researcher who runs the project.

Another challenge is added to this challenge: an attempt to create a new biomarker – "biomarker is something that helps us to see how the disease develops." The way of arrival there understood that when the umbrella leaves, the umbrella forms fragments that go into the fluid of our body, namely, the cerebrospinal fluid. The challenge is to understand, through the quantification of these fragments, the condition in which the evolution of the disease is and it would be a highly desirable biomarker, synthesizing the professor of the Medical Faculty of the University of Lisbon.

This is more than encouraging progress for specialists who have long been dreaming of a positive outcome for a scientific battle against Alzheimer's disease, a "terrible disease that takes our identity." "To think that someone loses his memory is something that is devastating," he sums up, and that was the feeling that led the scientist to be interested in fighting this disease.

However, despite encouraging progress, Maria Jose Diogenes acknowledges that, even if everything goes well, it will continue for several years until this therapy is available to patients. "Before we move on to human research, we must ensure that this molecule we have is effective in animal models." This project includes this animal test already for the Alzheimer's disease model and was intended for three years. I need more, I can not say how much, but some ten years or more until I come to the tests with people, "says the researcher.

Always look for funds

Maria Jose Diogenes does not hide the great help that a scholarship has been awarded by Santa Casa through the Neuroscience Award. 200,000 euros in funding for three years makes this award a "spectacular" occasion. In addition to its existence, "at the national level, it has actually created a niche of opportunities for Portuguese neuroscientists," given the unprecedented nature and its annual periodicity. This year's awards will be announced on November 28th.

The winner of last year's edition admits that the search for funds is a major part of her job. "We, researchers, have a few concerns: on the one hand, finding the right question for research, on the other hand, for good work and fundraising, because only with resources can we learn."

Maria Jose Diogenes does not see this need as an obstacle to work, but as an opportunity to do more. "We are always applying for scholarships, many projects, it's difficult, but it's for any scientific competition is very competitive, but more and more international resources are used."

The researcher's life thus seeks the funds "normally for two, three years," asks the right questions and finds answers, which often open the door to new questions, all in order to solve the problem of society. At the time of science, that's right. But good news is that, when they arrive, the answers always come in time to make a difference.

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