Anyone and everyone who has ever watched ‘The Notebook’ (and let’s admit, who hasn’t?) is familiar with Dementia and Alzheimer’s. I mean, who could forget Ryan Gosling’s and Rachel McAdam’s whirlwind romance, followed by Rachel McAdam’s developing Alzheimer’s disease which made us all wallow. Why am I going into all this? Because not all of us may know someone who has dementia but surely most of us have heard of it through this blockbuster movie.
And the fact is, this disease is a bitter and harsh reality, one that takes so many loved ones far away from us not physically but emotionally and mentally. Furthermore, with the young onset or early onset variant of dementia, this is a disease not limited to the elderly anymore. But fear not, for we may have a savior amongst us right here! Pakistani neuroscientist, Dr. Jawaid Ali, our very own, based out of Switzerland might have landed in on some breakthrough research leading to a cure of dementia.
What Exactly Is Dementia?
Dementia doesn’t refer to a single disease, dementia comprises of several diseases/injuries that are persistent and lead to loss of memory, function, and personality changes. More than eighty percent of dementia is caused by Alzheimer’s disease followed by vascular diseases being the second most common cause. Less common causes include injuries, infectious diseases, Huntington’s disease, and frontotemporal dementia.
Dr. Jawaid Ali, in his research begins by explaining that Dementia begins off by loss of short term memory meaning you basically can’t remember what you were told or heard or saw recently, followed by long term memory loss, which involves failure to recognize people around you to loss of memory of learned actions (such as using a washing machine, or Microsoft Word). These may or may not be accompanied by changes in persona as well as the ability to reason and perform daily functions. Personality changes are usually a part of frontotemporal dementia; the area of the brain which is largely responsible for what makes each of us unique and different, defining our habits, interests, and behavior.
The Science Of It All
The disease is accompanied by changes at the molecular level leading to non-functioning proteins known as amyloid plaques or neurofibrillary tangles as Dr. Jawaid Ali mentions in his work. The breakthrough achievement by this Pakistani- Swiss neuroscientist and his fellows is that they found the point in the pathway responsible for the production of these non-functioning deteriorating proteins, that when inhibited will lead to normally functioning proteins specifically in the area responsible for memory. These will, therefore, impede the onset of memory loss, and thus Dementia.
Experiments In Mice
This brilliant Swedish based Pakistani has really done us proud by making a historical discovery regarding micro RNAs responsible for the synthesis of abnormal plaques interfering with memory and general function of a person. Dr. Jawaid Ali and his colleagues discovered that by manipulating certain enzymes (protein phosphatase inhibitors) and decreasing their production, the normal Micro RNAs could be overproduced, replicated, and translated into normal proteins by performing experiments on mice.
This followed by injecting the normal microRNAs into the memory storing area of the brain, where now normal proteins were being formed rather than amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles; they discovered that the old senile mice could function just as well as the younger mice with healthy brains. These older, mice could now learn the same way the younger mice could learn to recognize new objects.
Imagine if this technology could be reproduced and used in humans! We could theoretically put an end to dementia! However, using this technology and modifying it for humans and ensuring the safety of such drugs will take its due time. But one cannot disregard, the achievement of Pakistan’s own neuroscientist in Switzerland doing us proud!
A Little About Dr. Jawaid Ali
Dr. Jawaid Ali is a graduate of Aga Khan University Hospital, one of the most prestigious institutions of Pakistan. After his graduation, he went on to the United States, for his clinical/research training in the field of Neurology from the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas.
However, with his passion for his field, this Pakistani neuroscientist did not stop and proceeded to continue his MD-PhD in neuroscience from Switzerland. Dr. Jawaid Ali has under his belt some pretty great feats including over 68 published papers, in the field of neuroscience as well as having worked at length on dementia, memory, addiction, neurodevelopmental disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, neurodegenerative disorders, and neuroepigenetics.
He also has to his name four book chapters and has multiple honors and awards from various academic organizations. He has been published in highly esteemed journals like Molecular Neurobiology, Science, Nature Communications Nature Neuroscience and Neuron. He currently has an H-index of 16 which means he has sixteen published papers, which have been cited at least sixteen different times! He also chairs the European MD-PhD Association!
Dr. Jawaid Ali’s Achievements Outside Of Science
Not only this, but this Swedish neuroscientist of Pakistani origin is a well-known humanitarian who believes that science should not only be used to cure diseases and improve quality of life but also as a mean to end wars and progress towards world peace.
Dr. Jawaid Ali has been featured widely by various national, and international, media, news, blogs and has even been invited as talker on TEDx Talks. Despite all this Dr. Jawaid Ali, is humble enough to invite open feedback and criticism regarding his work. He further invites people to ask him without hesitation if they need any mentorship.
But he has not limited himself to just neuroscience, despite being so occupied with work. In his spare time, he writes both prose and poetry which are easily available on his website. Oh did I mention he has a website? It’s all things Dr. Ali Jawaid! The best part? He has given open access to all his work, articles, and literature.
Furthermore, this Swiss-Pakistani neuroscientist is not a hoarder; he’s the type who’s out there to help you. So he lets you communicate with him through his site where one can easily put forward their queries regarding his work, or to help him in his humanitarian efforts to make this world a better place; a disease-free place.