Advancing the Science

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February 4, 2021

Dr. Ikezu pushes to find answers for Alzheimer’s disease

By Advancing the Science contributor
Dr. Ikezu poses outdoors on the Mayo Clinic Florida campus
Tsuneya Ikezu, M.D., Ph.D.

Tsuneya Ikezu, M.D., Ph.D., is a Mayo Clinic molecular neuroscientist who originally hails from Japan. Dr. Ikezu's science career has led him across the globe to work at Mayo Clinic in Florida. His lab will be located temporarily in the Griffin Building. His research focuses on Alzheimer's disease and related dementia.

Dr. Ikezu recently sat down for a conversation with the Advancing the Science blog team:

What is your area of research at Mayo Clinic?

DR. IKEZU: I work in the Department of Neuroscience. My research area is mainly molecular therapeutics of Alzheimer's disease and related dementia in a laboratory setting. We focus on extracellular vesicles, small particles secreted from any cells, for their role in cell-to-cell communications and disease spread in the brain.

What is your career background?

DR. IKEZU: I was born in Tokyo, Japan, and obtained an M.D. and Ph.D. separately from The University of Tokyo School of Medicine, had postdoctorate training at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, and faculty positions at University of Nebraska Medical Center and Boston University School of Medicine, where I maintain an adjunct professor position in the Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. I have been studying molecular pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease since 1995, and I also have been testing viral gene therapy since 2005.

Why and how did you get into your field?

DR. IKEZU: I was interested in neuroscience during my Ph.D. program back in the 1990s, since this is the last elusive field of biomedical science to explore, and it's where the secret of human intelligence exists. I am also concerned about the exponential prevalence of senile dementia, most prominently Alzheimer's disease, which affects as much as one-third of seniors over age 85. As human longevity increases, cognitive resilience has never been more important for their quality of life.

What led you to Mayo Clinic?

DR. IKEZU: I visited Mayo Clinic in Florida last spring and was very impressed with the institution, environment, and long-term history of excellence in the clinic and research. The departments of Neuroscience and Neurology at Mayo Clinic Florida are highly focused on neurodegenerative disease research, which is my main thrust. I was also attracted by Mayo's interest in extracellular vesicle research in both the Neuroscience and Cancer Biology departments. I felt that this environment will foster my research in synergy with many researchers on the campus.

What research projects will you work on here at Mayo?

DR. IKEZU: I will continue to work on National Institutes of Health and foundation-funded research to determine which molecules in microglia, brain immune cells and extracellular vesicles are critical in disease spread in animal models of Alzheimer's disease. I plan to initiate several new projects related to gene therapy and biomarkers of Alzheimer's disease in collaboration with multiple investigators on campus, as well as those outside of Mayo, in the areas of microglia-related research, proteomics, machine learning, human induced pluripotent stem cells, and human genetics of Alzheimer's disease.

What moment or experience in your life led you to pursue a medical research career?

DR. IKEZU: I met with Professor Etsuto Ogata and Dr. Ikuo Nishimoto when I was a resident at The University of Tokyo and learned about the world of biomedical science, where not only basic scientists, but physicians passionately talked about biological science at multiple levels ― from molecular biology to human disease. It was back in the 1990s, the time many important genes were cloned and published in high-impact journals on a regular basis. I realized that this is the right time to devote myself to biomedical science, as now we can find the genes to understand so many unknowns in human biology and disease. We now know that it is not just genes, but noncoding RNAs, epigenetic modification of genomes, metabolites, lipids, gas, electrical firing, oscillation and even electromagnetic fields that control human body and functions. Biomedical science is still an exponentially expanding field.

What do you hope your research will do for patients? How do you hope to change the practice?

DR. IKEZU: I hope that I can develop one effective therapy or preventive treatment of Alzheimer's disease during my tenure at Mayo Clinic, starting from preclinical testing using human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived neuronal cells and animal models to clinical trials on patients. This could be gene or nucleic acid-based therapy. This will be my focus.

Do you have any interesting hobbies?

DR. IKEZU: I love hiking, cooking and exercising.


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Tags: Alzheimer's disease, neurodegenerative disease, neurosciences, People, Tsuneya Ikezu

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