Returning Scientists at Bar-Ilan's Gonda Center
Combat Neurodegenerative Diseases

Eitan Okun
Dr. Eitan Okun

The Mishna of Pirke Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) defines our sixth decade as the point at which we should be looked up to, and honored as "elderly." But in medical terms, some 15% of people aged 60-plus get more than added respect. Indeed, according to a recent study, the "prevalence of dementia among community-dwelling elderly in Israel is estimated to be about 20%."

It is this startling statistic that is among the prime motivators for scientists at Bar-Ilan's Leslie and Susan Gonda (Goldschmied) Multidisciplinary Brain Research Center to develop new strategies to help eradicate diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and Huntington's. They are examining these deadly diseases on the molecular, cellular and network levels.

Among the Gonda Center's new recruits taking on this scientific challenge is Dr. Eitan Okun, a Bar-Ilan alumnus who recently completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the National Institutes of Health in Baltimore, Maryland. He says, "In our lab we use multi-disciplinary techniques to pursue two goals: to identify the neural mechanisms associated with mild cognitive impairment, and, at the same time, to look for signposts that would allow physicians to identify at-risk patients, so they can receive preventative treatment for dementia before it's too late."

Okun adds, "Our challenge is to find the clues in molecular biology that would indicate there's a problem, and would also give us possible targets for early drug intervention."

Learn more about Dr. Okun's work HERE »

Edward Stern
Dr. Edward Stern

Moshe Bar
Prof. Moshe Bar

Another Gonda Center scientist working to combat neurodegenerative diseases is Dr. Edward Stern, who uses advanced electrophysiological and imaging techniques to examine how normal neurological activity is disrupted in the presence of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Huntington's disease.

Studying Alzheimer's in animal models, Stern has shown how structural damage in neurons can be halted or even reversed. This demonstrates that nerve cells can recover from disease-related damage even in brains of advanced age, and reveals that the brain is more resilient than previously believed. Stern is continuing the work he began while conducting research and teaching at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

Learn more about Dr. Stern's work HERE »

The research work of the Gonda Center is being overseen by Prof. Moshe Bar, a leading researcher in cognitive neuroscience who was recently named the Center's Director after teaching at Harvard Medical School. He is conducting research to provide greater insights into what causes people to suffer from mood disorders, and how they can be assisted.

Find out more about the Gonda Center's work HERE »

To learn more about Bar-Ilan research to combat neurodegenerative diseases and its
Returning Scientist Program, call Howard Charish at 212-906-3900 or email howard.charish@afbiu.org

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