Rik Ossenkoppele, forskare vid Lunds universitet, tilldelas ”Drottning Silvias pris till en ung alzheimerforskare”. I september 2021 fick han ta emot det prestigefulla priset på 125 000 kronor.
What originally made you interested in Alzheimer’s disease research?
A combination of aspects has sparked my interest in Alzheimer’s disease research. First, I have witnessed many times the devastating effects Alzheimer’s disease can have an on an individual and their loved ones. With no effective cure available, I am very motivated to contribute to a solution. Second, I have always been intrigued by the many faces this disease has, as it manifests so differently across individuals. Understanding the causes of these individual differences may be key to solving Alzheimer’s disease. Third, Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by a rather gradual decline, as most individuals spend more time in the asymptomatic phase (where the biological disease process has already started, but no overt symptoms have emerged yet) than in the symptomatic phase. This provides a great window of opportunity to stop Alzheimer’s disease before it effectively started. Fourth, The first description of Alzheimer’s disease dates back to 1906 and we still have not found a satisfying solution. I feel very personally challenged by the complex nature of Alzheimer’s disease.
What is the aim of your research?
My research program has three different aims. The first is to understand the role of the two core pathological hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease (i.e., amyloid plaques and tau tangles) in the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore, we measure these pathologies (longitudinally) using brain scans (i.e., PET scans) and relate these processes to change in cognition, loss of brain cells and brain function. Second, we study the differences in clinical presentation of Alzheimer’s disease and try to understand why one person mainly develops memory problems, while others predominantly present with e.g., behavioral changes, language impairment or visual deficits. Third, we aim to elucidate the mechanisms underlying resilience, i.e., the capability to cope with or withstand Alzheimer’s disease pathology. We can learn a lot from persons who are capable of maintaining their cognitive functions in the face of Alzheimer’s disease pathology, and perhaps the biological underpinnings can in the future be used to boost resilience in less resilient individuals.
What does this award from Alzheimerfonden mean for your research?
This award is an incredible and I am very thankful to Alzheimerfonden for receiving this award. The award is highly prestigious, and it is an honor to now be associated with the previous recipients, who are all outstanding researchers that I greatly respect. I view this award as a sign of a recognition of the work done by our Swedish BioFINDER study group and would like to thank the entire team for their fantastic contributions. This award is a great motivation to continue and even accelerate our research.