Professor Ruth Itzhaki
Ruth Itzhaki, MSc, PhD, MA is Professor, Faculty of Life Sciences,
University of Manchester.
The causes of dementia are unknown, but with increasing numbers of people surviving to old age, prevention or treatment will become ever more important. Ruth’s results show that a virus present in brain plays a major role in the main type of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease (AD). This is intriguing both from the fundamental viewpoint and because it indicates the possibility of prevention of AD by vaccination, and of slowing the deterioration of those already afflicted, by treatment with anti-viral agents.
Another recent discovery of hers is that in the case of yet another and very different virus, hepatitis C virus (HCV), APOE determines the severity of the damage (in the liver); intriguingly, the type 4 allele is protective. This is important not only in demonstrating yet again the significance of genetic factors in affecting the outcome of an infection, but also in enabling prognoses to be made for the 170 million people worldwide who are infected with HCV. She also has preliminary results suggesting that APOE determines age of infection of infants by the malaria protozoan.
Ruth is now investigating the location of the virus in brain, especially to find if it resides in or near the characteristic neuropathological features of AD, as well as the mechanism of interaction between virus and genetic factor, the possible role of other viruses in dementia and of APOE in diseases caused by other infectious agents, and the effect of HSV1 on the metabolism of the two proteins associated with the neuropathological features. She hopes that in future, clinical trials will be funded to test the efficacy of anti-viral agents against AD; at present there is no effective treatment.
Ruth coauthored Herpes simplex virus interferes with amyloid precursor protein processing, Herpes simplex virus type 1, apolipoprotein E, and cholesterol: A dangerous liaison in Alzheimer’s disease and other disorders, Inflammatory consequences: benevolent, or virulent?, Alzheimer’s disease, the neuroimmune axis, and viral infection, Infiltration of the brain by pathogens causes Alzheimer’s disease, Apolipoprotein E polymorphisms and risk of malaria, Vaccination prevents latent HSV1 infection of mouse brain, and Apolipoprotein E-epsilon 4 protects against severe liver disease caused by hepatitis C virus. Read the full list of her publications!
Ruth earned her BSc in physics, her MSc in Biophysics, and then a PhD in Biophysics, all at London University.
Watch her SENS 3 talk Herpes simplex virus type 1 in brain is a cause of the neuropathological features of Alzheimer’s disease.