A Legacy of Discovery

Extraordinary leadership and the powerful collaborative model of the Tanz Centre have led to a proven legacy of major discoveries in the quest to understand Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, Parkinson’s disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and prion diseases.

Among the discoveries credited to the Tanz Centre, our scientists have:

  • Identified and cloned the defective gene, presenilin 1, located on chromosome 14 that causes the most virulent form of Alzheimer’s disease. Presenilin 1 is involved in the metabolism of several important proteins implicated in Alzheimer’s
  • Discovered presenilin 2, located on chromosome 1, responsible for a less severe form of familial early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Identified two genes associated with late onset sporadic forms of Alzheimer’s (apolipoprotein E and SORL1 genes)
  • Discovered a new gene, nicastrin, involved in the biochemical processes leading to neurodegeneration.
  • Identified the protective role of the PINK1 protein that suppresses neuronal death and loss-of-function effects induced by genetic mutations linked to Parkinson’s disease.
  • Identified several gene mutations linked to Parkinson’s disease.
  • Demonstrated that a particular protein that protects cells may be reduced in prion-infected animals.
  • Identified gene mutations causing corticobasal syndrome: a rare, progressive neurodegenerative disease involving the cerebral cortex and the basal ganglia in the brain.
  • Developed the first antibody that labels a misfolded protein implicated in ALS. The antibody could be used as a biomarker for ALS or to develop drugs or immunization therapies

Development of diagnostic and therapeutic agents

Tanz Centre discoveries have also led to the development of diagnostic and therapeutic agents. Tanz Centre researchers have:

  • Proven that vaccination of mice with Alzheimer’s disease can prevent or reverse cognitive and memory impairments.

This discovery spurred the subsequent testing of the vaccine in humans.  Researchers have also identified the parts of the vaccine that were responsible for the potential therapeutic effect that caused allergic reactions, which lead to a second generation of vaccine for Alzheimer’s disease.  Clinical trials of these revised vaccines are now underway.

  • Shown that a potential drug, scyllo-inositol, inhabits the clinical and pathological features of Alzheimer’s disease in mice. Scyllo-inositol is now in clinical trials in humans.

Several of the genes discovered by Tanz Centre researchers have been converted into clinical tests to identify individuals at risk for these neurodegenerative diseases.

For more information about the scientific breakthroughs at the Tanz Centre, click on the research area below: