(368a) Thermodynamic and Kinetic Origins of Alzheimer's and Related Diseases: a Chemical Engineer's Perspective

The pathological hallmark of more than twenty neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and the prior diseases, is the presence within the brain of plaques containing ordered protein aggregates called fibrils. It is not yet known why these structures form in some individuals and not in others, or whether the plaques are toxic or Nature's way of sequestering toxic species. Dr. Hall will describe current thinking on the scientific underpinnings for this phenomenon, and her computational efforts to contribute to our knowledge of how and why proteins assemble into fibrils.

Dr. Hall, is a leading researcher in applied thermodynamics and molecular simulation. She is credited as a force for modernizing chemical engineering thermodynamics research and was the first to demonstrate that statistical thermodynamics, which is normally used to describe the behavior of molecules, could also be used to describe the behavior of micron-sized particles. Her recent work focuses on the formation of ordered protein aggregates called amyloid fibrils, a cause or associated symptom of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and the prion diseases (e.g., Mad Cow disease). In a recent breakthrough, Hall and her colleagues were able to create a computer model that simulates how amyloid fibrils form ? a step that may lead to discoveries of how to slow or halt the disease process.