36th ASMS Asilomar Conference: The Role of Mass Spectrometry
in Neurodegenerative Disease Research
The Asilomar conference will bring together biomedical researchers and mass spectrometrists to discuss and educate how mass spectrometry technologies can be used to address the growing problem of neurodegenerative diseases (NDs).
From information provided by the NIH, Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a progressive, degenerative disorder of the brain and is the most common form of dementia of the elderly. AD is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Currently, at least five million Americans at age 65 and older suffer from AD, and it is projected that the number of new cases of AD will double by 2025. AD is clearly becoming a national health crisis affecting Americans and the total annual payments of health care for people with AD are projected to be more than $1 trillion in 2050. And these numbers are only for AD. Other neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), and many others add to the growing healthcare issue for future generations.
Mass spectrometry has already been a leading contributing technology that has been applied to address biomedical research in these areas. Still unknown to the research community are how the proteins specific to each disease (e.g., AD (beta-amyloid, tau), Huntington’s (Huntingtin protein), Parkinson’s (alpha-synuclein), ALS (superoxide dismutase)) either cause and/or are hallmarks of the disease. Protein aggregation, folding/misfolding, modifications, etc all appear to contribute to the disease, and they are difficult to study by MS because of issues related to solubility. Yet, a recent literature search using Scifinder returned over 1800 publications when searching “neurodegenerative disease + mass spectrometry”.
Funding agencies (e.g., NIH Aging Institute, NIA; National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, NINDS) are encouraging more research that applies state-of-the-art mass spectrometry. This conference will bring together mass spectrometrists already engaged in various aspects of ND research with specialized biologists expert in ND. Students, postdocs, and senior researchers will learn the field that is likely to continue long-term into the future. New collaborations will hopefully develop from the discussions and interactions at the conference.
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