Nobel laureate Stanley Prusiner to speak at UCSC on Friday, October 15

Discoverer of infectious proteins that cause neurodegenerative diseases will give the first Tony Fink Memorial Lecture

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Stanley Prusiner

Nobel laureate Stanley Prusiner, M.D.--who discovered the infectious proteins that cause "mad cow disease" in cattle, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans, and other neurodegenerative diseases--will discuss the latest developments in this field in a lecture at UC Santa Cruz on Friday, October 15, at 5 p.m. in the Baskin Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.

Prusiner's talk will be the first Tony Fink Memorial Lecture, established this year to honor and celebrate the distinguished career of Anthony Fink, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, who died in 2008. Prusiner will discuss "Increasing evidence that prions cause most neurodegenerative diseases."

Prusiner is a professor of neurology and director of the Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases at UC San Francisco. His discovery of the infectious proteins he named prions was unexpected and spurred vehement debate among scientists for many years. He described a novel disease paradigm, showing that prions cause disorders in humans that manifest variously as sporadic, inherited, or infectious illnesses.

In all prion diseases, a normal, benign cellular protein acquires an altered shape that results in pathological changes in the brain. The most common prion disease in humans is Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). Other, more common neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and frontotemporal dementia have also been found to involve abnormal protein conformations. Prusiner's current research includes efforts to find drug therapies that retard neurodegeneration in Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and prion diseases.

Prusiner received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1997. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society, and is a foreign member of the Royal Society, London. His other awards and honors include the Potamkin Prize for Alzheimer's Disease Research from the American Academy of Neurology; the Richard Lounsbery Award for Extraordinary Scientific Research in Biology and Medicine from the National Academy of Sciences; the Gairdner Foundation International Award; and the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research.

The Tony Fink Memorial Lecture is funded by generous donations from alumni, faculty, and industry. Fink, who joined the UCSC faculty in 1969, was a leading authority on protein folding. He investigated how protein folding goes wrong in diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, and he worked to design treatments to repair the damage or prevent it from happening. Widely respected in the scientific community for his research accomplishments, he received the Division of Physical & Biological Sciences' Outstanding Faculty Award in 2007.

For additional information about this lecture, call the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at (831) 459-4823.