January 16, 2001
be gone in 10 years
By Eric Rangus email@example.com
Not quite one-third of the way through his 70-minute discussion on the future of neurology, one of the countrys foremost researchers in the study of brain disease unleashed a bold and optimistic prediction.
I believe, said Gerald Fischbach, director of the National
Institute of Neuro- logical Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) at the National
Insti-tutes of Health (NIH), that we should be able to arrest and
perhaps stop Parkinsons disease within this decade.
Fischbach spoke to a crowd of several hundred listeners in WHSCAB auditorium,
Jan. 10, as part of the Future Makers Lecture Series. His discussion,
The Changing Face of Neuroscience, was the first such presentation
There is no one better to address the current research initiatives
in neuroscience and the challenges ahead, said Michael Johns, executive
vice president for health affairs, during his introduction.
This center is without question the leading center for the study
of Parkinsons disease and related movement disorders, Fischbach
said of Emory and its neurologists.
Fischbach listed several reasons for his optimism, not only about finding
a cure for Parkinsons but in defeating more than a dozen other brain-related
Increased public support and funding, analysis of synapses and circuits
within the brain, new insights from molecular genetics, analysis of cell
death programs, advances in stem cell therapy, and a receptiveness to
fresh ideas from new research-ers were all presented as initiatives that
could lead to cures not only for Parkinsons but also Alzheimers
disease, Huntingtons disease and other neurological disorders.
Fischbach also listed several of what he called secondary chronic
neurodegenerative disorders, such as multiple sclerosis, stroke,
epilepsy and even AIDS, as targets of brain disease research.
When you add all these together and realize the burden of disease
they represent, they far exceed cancer today, and they far exceed heart
disease today, Fischbach said. So these are major, major issues.
Theres no question that disorders of the brain will become
the leading public health matter in this current centuryin fact,
they probably already are.
Fischbach went on to discuss several of the breakthroughs in neuroscience,
such as how research on houseflies led to important discoveries about
cell death and loss of motiona main component of Parkinsons.
He also express the importance of increased funding. NINDS budget,
for instance, increased $120$150 million each of the past three
years, which was crucial to recent research.
Fischbach said research in brain disease never stagnates, noting that
more than 40 percent of the funding distributed by NINDS in fiscal year
1999 went to primary investigators who had never received it before.
Despite all of these advances, Fischbach understood the limitations of
his science. I dont think we will ever understand consciousness;
we wont understand intelligence; we wont understand some of
the more profound aspects of memory, love and emotion, he said.
But we can have insights into the brain. Fortunately, we dont
have to understand its basic workings to understand pathological processes
and what goes wrong.
Fischbach, actually, is about to move on from his position as NINDS director. He has accepted a position as dean of the faculty of medicine and vice president for health and biomedical sciences at Columbia University. He has led NINDS since July 1998.