Sally Frautschy, Ph.D. University of California, Los Angeles

Sally Frautschy is a Professor of Neurology working in the UCLA Alzheimer’s Center and the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Brentwood. Dr. Frautschy, in collaboration with Dr. Greg Cole, has been studying the brain’s response to human amyloid, and was the first to describe the inflammatory response in Alzheimer’s disease. Her laboratory develops practical and effective approaches, particularly nutritional, for stopping this tragic disease.

I had the pleasure of embarking on this adventure to develop molecular tweezers for translation in Alzheimer’s. There is understandably a lot of skepticism in the field about finding a cure for Alzheimer’s, but those who believe we can do something, whether clinicians or basic scientists, need to work together. Our UCLA group has diverse expertise so I was excited when Gal Bitan came to UCLA. I was floored to see CLR01 unravel β-pleated sheets better than compounds claiming such effects and creating a lot of hoopla. This told me that Gal had something really strong. One of the first experiments we did showed that the molecular tweezer, CLR01, could rescue dendritic spines, where the synapses between neurons form, from the toxic effect of amyloid β-protein (Aβ) (Figure 1).

Figure 1. CLR01 protects neurons from dendritic-spine loss cause by Aβ

I was delighted when he asked me to help his PhD student, Aida Attar, learn the techniques involved in the pre-clinical studies going in my laboratory and was happy to help Gal and Aida set up everything that was necessary for their experiments in Gal’s lab. My plan is to continue working with Gal to create a larger translational group at UCLA where with improved models and streamlined plans of analyzing selected variables, we can come up with more effective treatments faster. Tweezers are novel and powerful molecules to reduce toxic aggregates at early stage disease, and in combination with drugs targeting downstream events, we may be able to modify the disease at moderate stages as well.