Unlocking the Alzheimer's puzzle
Meet Dr. Sébastien Hébert
The Alzheimer Society Research Program (ASRP) is celebrating 25 years of funding researchers from across Canada. $4.5 million is being awarded to 38 different projects aimed at improving prevention, and diagnosis and treatment, as well as finding a cure. A record-breaking $4 million will be from the ASRP.
Dr. Sébastien Hébert is one of the researchers funded through this year’s ASRP competition and one who has been funded by the ASRP from the very beginning of his research career. He is currently an assistant professor at Laval University in the Faculty of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry and Neurosciences and a passionate Alzheimer’s disease researcher.
Dr. Hébert’s research aims to understand the causes of Alzheimer’s disease and to develop new ways to diagnose and treat it.
“My work focuses on a relatively new class of molecules in the body called microRNAs. In people with Alzheimer’s disease, these microRNAs are abnormally changed. Tests in cells and animal models support the hypothesis that these changes are directly linked to the development to Alzheimer’s disease, including the death of neurons, “ he explains. “This link is very promising for Alzheimer’s prevention and treatment, as it has already provided major advancements in other areas of research, like cancer. As we know, there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease and current medications only provide limited, short-term benefits.”
Dr. Hébert has more than a few reasons to make the fight against dementia his life’s work. To begin with, he found neurobiology interesting, even in his youth. “How the brain works and what happens when it doesn’t is a fascinating area of study.” And secondly, he loves challenges, and working on Alzheimer’s, a very complex disease, can be particularly mind-boggling.
The decision is also a personal one. He has seen the impact of dementia on both family and friends, and watched as Alzheimer’s disease progressed in his great-grandmother until it claimed her life.
“Finding a cure or protective treatment is more than necessary and timely, not only for the aging baby-boomers, but also for my own generation and particularly, my children.” Funding from the ASRP is helping him to reach his goal.
The ASRP has a history of supporting young researchers like Dr. Hébert. “The program has supported my research with both funding and fellowships for graduate students and post-doctoral fellows who work on my team.”
Dr. Hébert has also given back to the ASRP as a member of one of the peer review panels. The ASRP’s two peer review panels are groups of leading scientists who evaluate the applications that come in to the ASRP, identify the most promising research projects and decide which will be funded by the ASRP.
Learn more about each of the 2013 ASRP recipients or find out more about the ASRP.