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Hans Lassmann to receive prize for multiple sclerosis research

(Vienna, 8 Sept. 2010) O.Univ. Prof. Dr. Hans Lassmann, Head of the Department of Neuroimmunology at the Center for Brain Research of MedUni Vienna, will be the first Austrian to receive the K.J. Zülch Prize for excellent achievements in the field of basic neurological research for his research project on the subject of multiple sclerosis, which also supports new therapeutic approaches.

Multiple sclerosis, a chronic inflammation of the central nervous system, is one of the major neurological diseases of young adults, in which the insulating layers of the nerve fibres are destroyed. Experimental research in recent decades has largely identified the mechanisms of the inflammation in the nervous system and, building on these findings, effective therapies are available today which can both delay the progression and reduce the clinical effects of this disease.

In patients with an already advanced form of the disease however these therapies show only a very limited effect. This is also because the mechanisms of the tissue damage which is triggered by the inflammation have to date been studied only incompletely. But Lassmann was able in the course of his research activities to identify one dominant mechanism through which the chronic inflammation response leads to a damaging of mitochondria. Mitochondria are the tissue's power plants and their functional impairment leads to latent energy deficiency and therefore to a destruction of the structures in the nervous system that need most energy.

The importance of this discovery comes to light in that similar mechanisms of neurodegeneration also seem to play a role in classic neurodegenerative diseases of the nervous system, such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. In addition, these latest findings could in the foreseeable future lead to effective neuroprotective therapeutic strategies, which means they could also have an impact in already advanced stages of the disease.

Short biography:
Born in Vienna in 1949, o.Univ. Prof. Dr. Hans Lassmann studied at the Medical Faculty in Vienna and in 1983 qualified as a professor in neuropathology. Then he took over the management of the Research Group for Experimental Neuropathology, from 1990 to 1995 he was also the head of a related research unit of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.
In 1993 Lassmann started to teach as an Associate University Professor, in 1999 he received the Professorship for Neuroimmunology and took over the management of the department of the same name. From 2000 until 2007 Hans Lassmann was the first Head of the Center for Brain Research, which will celebrate its 10-year anniversary on the 29 October with a symposium and a commemorative event.

Lassmann was awarded numerous national and international prizes, in addition he fulfils various functions in different scientific associations and is a member of the editorial boards of various international medical journals and Frequent Reviewer for "The Lancet".

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