Juan Domingo Gispert, PhD
I decided to become a scientist when I was in high school – I wanted to understand what was going on at the molecular level inside the human body to be able to “fix it” in disease state. My Biology teacher back then and her passion when explaining the lessons were the reasons I started to love Biology. Neuroscience fascinated me during College because the brain is a complex and powerful organ that controls every single process happening in your body and makes each human being unique. Seeing my grandpa developing Alzheimer’s disease and eventually dying without knowing anyone in the family really struck me with the feeling of dedicating my life to try to disentangle what is happening during this awful disease that takes away bit by bit the essence of who you really are. When Dr. Alois Alzheimer described the disease back in 1906, he wrote in the autopsy report that the brain’s patient presented cerebral atrophy, senile plaques, neurofibrillary degeneration and arteriosclerosis of the small cerebral vessels. More than a century has passed and the scientific community has made important advantages on comprehending the neuropathological hallmarks. However, the vascular component of this disorder has been disregarded for many years. The total length of the cerebral capillaries is 400 miles, so it is not difficult to envision how a problem in the cerebral vasculature, however small is, may have an impact on the brain’s health. Now we know that around a third of Alzheimer’s cases worldwide might be attributable to potentially modifiable risk factors, such as smoking, hypertension, obesity, diabetes and physical inactivity. Trying to understand how cardiovascular and Alzheimer´s diseases may influence each other has been my main research during the past decade and BrightFocus support has been instrumental for it. I still remember when I was a BrightFocus Postdoctoral Fellow and one day I received a package in the lab with dozens of Thank You cards hand-written by BrightFocus Donors. It was one of the most emotional moments of my scientific career. Thanks to your support we can keep working hard and try to find a cure for Alzheimer´s disease.