Hope Center Program on Protein Aggregation and Neurodegeneration (HPAN)

Mission

Addressing brain disorders

We believe that common molecular mechanisms underlie many neurodegenerative diseases, and that fundamental discoveries in one disease can lead to cures and treatments in others. Our aim is to elucidate the causes of nerve degeneration and repair and to translate that knowledge into effective treatments and cures.

Goals

Effectively treat and prevent the world’s major neurological diseases

Detect disease in very early stages, so that treatment can be applied in time to minimize or reverse neurological damage

Recognize common disease paths and apply solutions broadly

Prepare the next generation of leaders

Alison Goate, PhD, and David Holtzman, MD

Co-Directors: Alison Goate, PhD, and David Holtzman, MD

hpan.wustl.edu

Our interdisciplinary approach creates a powerful synergy that enables us to address hypotheses and find solutions for multiple diseases much more quickly.

— Alison Goate, PhD

Overview

The cognitive impairments and muscular disabilities characteristic of diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease), Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease result from the degeneration of nerve cells. These neurodegenerative diseases and others like them afflict millions of people in the United States, and because these diseases are largely associated with aging, their incidence is expected to rise as the aging population grows. Most disheartening is that at present treatment options to delay the onset of disease or slow their progression are limited.

The Hope Center Program on Protein Aggregation and Neurodegeneration (HPAN) aims to find diagnostic tools and effective treatments for neurodegenerative diseases by investigating their underlying causes.

Central to their work is studying a process called protein misfolding, known to contribute to nerve degeneration associated with aging and disease. Each neurodegenerative disease stems from aggregation of a different protein: Alzheimer's from the proteins amyloid beta and tau, Huntington's from huntingtin, Parkinson's from alpha synuclein and so on.

HPAN scientists hope to elucidate the misfolding process and other issues shared by multiple neurological diseases, find solutions to correct or prevent them, and apply solutions broadly to address a wide range of diseases.

HPAN is made up of 20 affiliate labs. Their work includes:

  • Identifying genes contributing to protein aggregation and misfolding

  • Identifying biomarkers as early determinants of Alzheimer's disease

  • Finding genetic factors that influence risk for neurodegenerative diseases

  • Determining how protein aggregation contributes to nerve cell damage and death

  • Providing new ideas and tools to study neurodegenerative diseases, including mouse models

Leadership

Co-Director: Alison Goate, PhD, Samuel and Mae S. Ludwig Professor of Psychiatry and professor of neurology and of genetics

Co-Director: David Holtzman, MD, Andrew B. and Gretchen P. Jones Professor, head of the Department of Neurology, and professor of developmental biology