WVU researcher fighting Alzheimer’s


To a certain generation of people the names Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin are recalled with something approaching reverance. During the 1950s, the two developed vaccines to prevent a once-dreaded disease, polio. Now, it is nearly unheard of.

Will hundreds of millions of people a few years from now feel the same gratitude to Dr. Ali Rezai and West Virginia University?

Rezai and WVU’s Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute were part of a recent Associated Press story about another scourge, Alzheimer’s.

The article cited a major new advance in treating Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases.

At the risk of simplifying a complex breakthrough, the news is that researchers have found a non-invasive new method of getting treatment for disease past one of the brain’s self-defense mechanisms. What some refer to as the “blood-brain barrier” can keep both germs and medicine from getting to areas of the brain that require treatment.

Rezai, described as a lead researcher in the work, told the AP reporter the advance may help treat Alzheimer’s.

Among other positions, Rezai serves as executive chairman of the institute at WVU. He and many others at the university are parts of a major initiative against brain disorders.

Just a few weeks ago, in fact, WVU announced formation of a new Department of Neuroscience within the School of Medicine. It brings together more than 50 university laboratories and dozens of educators.

Most Mountain State residents probably think of WVU as the state’s flagship institution of higher learning. It is that.

But WVU also has become one of the nation’s top research institutions.

That did not occur by accident. It has involved a continuing focus on making research at WVU better.

World-class research is not cheap. But it brings with it enormous benefits, including general economic development that can provide good, new jobs for West Virginians.

State legislators should bear that in mind when debating state support of WVU.

No one knows what the outlook is for a breakthrough in treating Alzheimer’s. But it is entirely possible part of the solution will be found right here in the hills of West Virginia.

That makes WVU’s investment in neurosciences money spent very well.