Assoc. Prof. Evandro F. Fang visited the Second Faculty of Medicine, Charles University in Prague in June. During his visit, he delivered his famous lecture on novel mechanisms activating ‘garbage cleaning’ (mitophagy) from the brain at the Department of Neurology. It was an excellent opportunity for clinicians to learn new approaches to preventing aging and Alzheimer’s disease. On this occasion, he gave an interview to a hospital magazine, Motol IN, intended for patients and the general public.
You can find the issue with the article “Removing brain ‘garbage’ as a pathway to healthy brain” online here (Motol IN č.7-8/2023).
Here we provide the original version in English:
- You recently received an award for your excellent dementia research (National Association for Public Health’s Dementia Research Prize for 2023). What does such an award mean to you and your team?
EFF: It was such a big honour as a laureate of the National Association for Public Health’s Dementia Research Prize for 2023 presented by H.M. King Harald V of Norway. This is among the most prestigious awards in the science fields in the Scandinavian countries, and is to give recognition to researchers or clinicians who have contributed significantly to the understanding or treatment of dementia. Such a big award to a young research, it really encourages me to work harder on the way to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, the most common dementia worldwide.
- What is the best way to improve human mitochondrial function? Can we change anything in our lifestyle?
EFF: Mitochondria are the powerhouses of our body and mitochondria are dynamic (fusion and fission) and fragile. It has been reported in both laboratory and clinical studies that interventions like exercise and healthy diet can improve mitochondrial numbers and quality. Exercise and healthy diets are public accessible approaches to work with.
- You have been working as a researcher in the US and in Norway. How do the conditions for scientists in the two countries differ?
EFF: I have been working in Hong Kong (4 years), Baltimore in the USA (6 years), and Oslo (Norway, almost 6 years). I have had great and positive experiences in studying and living in these charming cities. Speaking of science they are different: the working speed is Hong Kong is very fast and professional; in the USA, the research competitive is very high and among the highest quality; in Norway, the funding is very decent and the research environment is open and thus one can have a great balance of life and scientific career.
- What would you advise young researchers to succeed in their careers?
EFF: To set up a goal of your career, and based on this goal to develop your training plans and to rich your CV. Definitely, in such a world with international competition in most scientific jobs, we need to work hard in a happy way. A key to make us happy is to choose the career that one really love.
- In your opinion, what is the most pressing research question that needs to be addressed in the field of mitophagy and Alzheimer’s disease?
EFF: Our 2019 paper on Nature Neuroscience is considered a milestone on targeting defective mitophagy as a druggable target for Alzheimer (with more than 800 citations since 2019). Since then great efforts by many other labs and us have done on the mechanistic studies of defective mitophagy in Alzheimer as well as on the development of novel drug candidates for Alzheimer. Some novel mitophagy-inducing molecules show great anti-Alzheimer activity in laboratory models and human iPSC-derived cellular systems; furthermore, these molecules are bioavailability, with favoured pharmacokinetics, and some can pass the blood-brain barrier. Thus, the most pressing question is to test them in clinical trials for Alzheimer.
- Can you tell us your assumption when will be possible to treat Alzheimer’s disease causally?
EFF: Alzheimer’s is likely a group of diseases which make it challenging to find a drug to cure all individuals with Alzheimer’s. The exciting news on the 25-35% efficacy in reducing memory loss of newly developed anti-Abeta antibodies bring us hope. Targeting on offsetting defective mitophagy may show a more profound benefit as it could reduce many risks/causes of Alzheimer’s (Nature Review Drug Discovery Turning up mitophagy in Alzheimer disease – PubMed (nih.gov))