Curiosity Expert: Rudy Tanzi, Ph.D.
Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School/Massachusetts General Hospital
Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D.
- Director, Genetics and Aging Research Unit
- MassGeneral Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases
- Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital,
- Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology (Neuroscience Program affiliate),
- Harvard Medical School
Dr. Rudolph Tanzi is a Professor of Neurology and holder of the Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Endowed Chair in Neurology at Harvard Medical School. At Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Dr. Tanzi serves as the Director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit, which consists of seven laboratories investigating the genetic causes of Alzheimer's disease. Dr. Tanzi has been investigating the molecular and genetic basis of neurological disease since 1980 when he participated in the pioneering study that led to the location of the Huntington's disease gene, the first disease gene to be found by genetic linkage analysis. Since 1982, Dr. Tanzi has investigated the genetic causes of Alzheimer's disease (AD). He co-discovered all three genes that cause early-onset familial AD, including the first familial AD gene, known as the amyloid β-protein (A4) precursor (APP), and the presenilin genes. In 1993, Dr. Tanzi discovered the gene responsible for the neurological disorder known as Wilson's disease, and over the past 25 years, he has collaborated on studies identifying several other disease genes including those causing amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and autism. Dr. Tanzi currently spearheads the Alzheimer's Genome Project, which recently identified four new AD gene candidates. This achievement was named one of the "Top Ten Medical Breakthroughs of 2008" by Time magazine. In 1994, Dr. Tanzi discovered that the metals, zinc and copper, are necessary for the formation of neurotoxic assemblies of the Aβ peptide, the main component of β-amyloid deposits in brains of AD patients. Based on this discovery, Dr. Tanzi developed the "Metal hypothesis of Alzheimer's disease", which has led to successful clinical trials for treating and preventing AD by targeting Aβ−metal interactions. These trials were carried out by Prana Biotechnology, LTD, for which Dr. Tanzi served as a co-founder.
Dr. Tanzi is one of the ten most cited researchers in AD, having co-authored over 400 research articles. He is also a co-author of a popular trade book on Alzheimer's disease entitled Decoding Darkness: The Search for the Genetic Causes of Alzheimer's Disease. Dr. Tanzi has received several awards for his work including the two highest awards for Alzheimer's disease research: The Metropolitan Life Foundation Award and The Potamkin Prize. He has also received the Reagan National Alzheimer's Disease Research Award, an NIH MERIT Award, and the "Oneness of Humanity" Global Award, and is an AAAS Fellow. In 2007, he was included on the list of the "Harvard 100: Most Influential Alumni" of over 220,000 living alumni. His invited honorary lectures include a Nobel Forum Lecture, Smithsonian Institution Distinguished Lecture, Society for Neuroscience Public Lecture, and the 2010 NIH Director's Lecture. Dr. Tanzi is the Chairman of the Cure Alzheimer's Fund Research Consortium and serves on over 50 editorial and scientific advisory boards.