Home / News & Videos / News / Medical Research /

Anti-Oxidants Possible Buffer Against Onset of Alzheimer’s

Anti-Oxidants Possible Buffer Against Onset of Alzheimer’s

November 12, 2009

Medical Research

Hoping for an emotional yet science-vetted pick-me-up following the dire statistics of the Alzheimer’s gala, I went to hear Dr. Alon Monsonego, keynote speaker at the October 28 Greater New York Region American Associates Ben-Gurion University of the Negev benefit dinner, held at the JCC in Manhattan.

Addressing the theme “Curing Alzheimer’s: An Innovative Approach,” in the elegant academic lingua franca understood by scientists and members of the intellectual-exchange group Mensa, he cited details of his research, which focuses on the interaction between the immune system and the brain during aging and on the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

First, the bad news: the revelation that “by the time Alzheimer’s symptoms appear, the disease may have already established itself 10 to 15 years ago, and by the time we see it, we’re in the middle of it.”

The good news: Alzheimer’s is not an inflammatory disease as once thought, and the new direction focuses on “boosting the immune system.” Responding to questions from the audience about the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, Monsonego concurred, “Fish, vegetables, olive oil… vitamin D3; anti-radicals, anti-oxidants are all very important.”

Monsonego is the first incumbent of the Zehava and Chezy Vered Career Development Chair for the Study of Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. After completing a doctorate in neurobiology at Weizmann Institute of Science, he moved on to Harvard Medical School to earn a fellowship in postdoctoral research.

His research in the immunological mechanisms involved in Alzheimer’s disease won him a grant ($80,000) from the Alzheimer’s Association, which enabled him to establish and head a research group at Harvard University.

Still, he opted to return to Israel. During dinner, I asked Monsonego for additional comments on the importance of diet and its impact on the immune system and Alzheimer’s.

Expounding on a statement he had made earlier in his address, he said: “We begin aging in our 20s…. Evolution does not care about quality of life, but about survival…. If the immune system is not treated well, the body can’t cope with disease.”

The evening’s recipients of the Humanitarian Award were the Gural family, whose real estate empire —begun by Aaron Gural and now known as Newmark Knight Frank — was, according to journal notes, “one of the first to see the potential for restoring industrial sites on the West Side and abandoned buildings in the Garment District.”

Gural’s acquisitions included the 1902 Flatiron Building, at the juncture of 23rd Street between Fifth Avenue and Broadway, and the old McGraw-Hill building on West 42nd Street (since sold).

Ben-Gurion University was inspired by the vision of Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, who “believed that the future of the country lay in the Negev region, a desert area comprising more than 60% of the country’s land mass.”

With a campus comprising 125 buildings, 19,500 students, 808 senior faculty and 228 junior faculty, it is a world leader in desert studies, alternate energy, ecological conservation, AND water purification and management. Ben-Gurion also takes pride in its graduate Dr. Rania Ogby-Kweidar, the first female Bedouin physician in Israel.