Professor Eisenberg discusses his research on amyloid diseases in a recent article about traumatic brain injury & sports concussions.
From UCLA Magazine (by Sandy Siegel ’72)
David Eisenberg: Head and Heart
Athletes in contact sports, such as football and boxing, where brain injuries are common, are particularly susceptible to such neurodegenerative disorders akin to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases and various other dementias, says UCLA Professor David Eisenberg. These so-called amyloid diseases are the focus of Eisenberg’s research. The diseases are caused by proteins that aggregate into fibers.
Part of what Eisenberg studies is the tau protein, found in Alzheimer’s and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which also afflicts athletes. “It’s believed that concussions suffered by athletes and others can aggregate tau into the amyloid state and cause this neurodegenerative disease,” he says. “So by studying tau and its formation of amyloid fibers, we’re also studying Alzheimer’s, CTE and numerous other dementias.”
Eisenberg, who teaches biochemistry and molecular biology, chose to study amyloid diseases because, as a scientist, he wanted to contribute to the improvement of human health. His father, a pediatrician, had hoped his son would come into his medical practice. But his dad “was just so good at what he did, there was no way I could ever equal his concern [for] and attention to children,” Eisenberg says. “So I went into science, having been convinced by my undergraduate supervisor that you could do as much for human health by working in biochemistry as by being a doctor.”
Eisenberg came to UCLA in 1969, with degrees from Harvard and Oxford and postdoctoral studies at Princeton and Caltech. He was eager to work with Paul Boyer, founding director of UCLA’s Molecular Biology Institute. Now the Paul D. Boyer Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, Eisenberg first worked as a structural biologist, studying proteins and how they interact and bind to one another.
Then he looked around for a field where he could use the tools he had to make a contribution to improving human health, and found amyloid diseases.
The ultimate goal of the research, of course, is to find treatments and cures. To that end, Eisenberg and his team already have “learned to design inhibitors of the formation of these amyloid aggregates. We hope these inhibitors can be made into drugs.”
Read the full article on the UCLA Magazine website.
To learn more about Prof. Eisenberg’s research visit his group’s website.