Henne Holstege received the Alzheimer's Research Award 2020. With this prize by the Hans and Ilse Breuer Foundation, Holstege can expand her research of the genetics of healthy centenarians, their immune system and their brains. Holstege wants to unravel why some individuals suffer from symptoms of dementia at 70, while other reach ages over 100 years without any signs of cognitive decline.

Hanne Holstege is, assistant professor at Amsterdam UMC and team leader of the 100-plus study of the Alzheimer Center Amsterdam. Previous research had shown that reaching extreme old age with maintained cognitive health runs in families. “I found that so fascinating that I set out to investigate the genetics factors that play a role in escaping dementia,” Holstege explains. “Therefore, I set up the 100-plus Study cohort of cognitively healthy centenarians in 2013, and we have now collected data from more than 400 healthy centenarians.”

100-plus study

The vulnerability for developing Alzheimer’s disease is also for ~60-80% defined by our genes. So, they can use genetics to predict who will eventually develop dementia before the disease manifests itself. This enables the application of personalized treatment before the disease has inflicted any damage to the brain. In addition, Holstege and her colleagues can figure out how the genes of the centenarians are involved in maintaining their brain-health, they may be able to mimic the function of those genes in by designing a drug for dementia that achieves the same. This way, they can learn from the centenarians how to maintain human brain-health.

Collaboration

While the expertise of Holstege lies directly on the genetic backgrounds of cognitive decline and escape thereof, much of the research she performed depends on long-term standing collaborations with other researchers with other expertise, both inside and outside the Amsterdam UMC, and also with researchers abroad. Holstege is well aware that only with these collaborative efforts they can gain maximum revenue from the data and biomaterials collected in context of the 100-plus Study. Holstege: “It is a true privilege to work with so many inspired people with different expertise. Such collaborations, especially those involving human material, can only be possible if we ensure to follow international research-agreements. Therefore, to continue these national and international collaborations, I aim to use the support of the Alzheimer Research Award 2020 issued by the Hans und Ilse Breuer Foundation.”

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