Chemist Allan Butterfield Awarded Alkmeon International Prize for Alzheimer's Research

By Mary Venuto

(Lexington, KY) – The philosopher, Alkmeon, is said to have been the first to advocate that the brain was the site of the spirit. In the case of D. Allan Butterfield, he is being recognized for both his spirit and brain.

Butterfield, a professor in the Department of Chemistry, is being awarded the Alkmeon International Prize for his contribution to the progress in the science of Alzheimer's disease (AD). He will be presented the award in Rome, Italy by Professor Nistico, of the University of Rome, on April 3, 2014. Dr. Butterfield will also be giving a lecture at the University of Rome II (Tor Vergata) and a seminar in Biochemistry at the University of Rome I (La Sapienza) during this trip.

”It is fair to say that our laboratory was the first to show protein oxidation in brain of subjects with AD occurred in brain regions rich in amyloid beta-peptide (Abeta),” said Butterfield “but not in Abeta-poor cerebellum, a brain region that is largely devoid of pathological changes in AD.” Abeta is the major constituent of senile plaques, one of the basic hallmarks of AD.

Butterfield’s research showed that Abeta causes protein oxidation and lipid peroxidation in brain cells and in vivo. His laboratory then went on to pioneer the technique of redox proteomics that allowed identification of which brain proteins were oxidized and dysfunctional in AD. These damaged proteins are consistent with the pathology and clinical presentation of AD.

Several Nobel Laureates and members of the National Academy of Sciences are among past recipients of the Alkmeon award.  Some of the big names include; Prof. Solomon Snyder of John Hopkins Medical School, Nobel Laureate Prof. Rita Levi Montalcini, Rome, and Nobel Laureate Sir John Eccles, of Oxford.

“The outstanding contributions of these past recipients humble me to be listed among such giants in science,” said Butterfield.

Butterfield’s research has blazed the trail for research on the concept of oxidative stress in AD.  Other laboratories have begun to pursue their oxidative stress studies in AD. AD research and clinical communities now regard oxidative damage in AD brain as a potentially fundamental underlying aspect of this devastating disorder. Advancement in these studies is thought to lead to better treatment and understanding of AD. 

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