Interview with Dr. Kenneth Kosik
Dr. Kenneth Kosik is an international reference in stem cell research and its application in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and other types of dementias. Kosik, who works as a professor at the University of California, in Santa Barbara, has more than 300 scientific publications and more than 40,000 citations.
Taking advantage of his recent visit to Fundació ACE, we did not want to miss the opportunity to ask him a few questions about his research work.
1. In your book “Outsmarting Alzheimer’s”, you give 80 simple lifestyle prescriptions to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. Which habits or routines are more important to be changed or introduced in our daily life?
I would highlight exercise as the number one most important lifestyle change to implement in order to reduce the probability of developing Alzheimer's. The reason for that is because for all the lifestyle changes that are suggested in the book, the one for which the evidence is strongest is exercise. Of course it is always important to tailor the exercise for the individual, taking into consideration the age and physical condition of each person. According to general recommendations, it would be enough to devote about 150 minutes a week.
2. Do you think this prescriptions can be as well useful to slow the progression of the disease and mitigate symptoms, once someone have been already diagnosed?
Once a person has already been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, this question would be a little harder to answer. There are studies that suggest that these changes in lifestyle can help reduce the progression of the disease and mitigate some of its symptoms but not everyone agrees. This is a more controversial issue since the scientific evidence we have is not so clear.
3. According to WHO, in 2050 dementia cases are set to triple. What scientist are currently doing in the field of genetics and stem cells to address the situation?
We are working very hard to incorporate new perspectives in order to find a new treatment. In this sense, we have spent many years exploring what it is called the amyloid hypothesis, trying to find different drugs that can reduce the amount of amyloid protein accumulated in the brains of people with Alzheimer's. But unfortunately none of this has worked.
Currently, although there is still some small possibility that this line may work, many researchers are looking for new approaches. And this is very positive, because research is becoming much more open to more novel and creative strategies to find a solution.
4. What is your opinion about the possibility of adapting the treatment to every patient according to genetics? Is it going to be feasible in the short term?
Probably not in the short term, but I think in the future we will be able to do it. The first people that we will try to look at will be all those with a genetic predisposition to Alzheimer's, with severe mutations in their DNA that determine the onset of the disease. But for other people, however, the key to their treatment may not be genetics. The answer may be different depending on the person in front of us.
5. Do you think it is going to take long to find a cure for Alzheimer’s?
I am optimistic about this question. The only problem is just do not dare to say when. The truth is that nowadays nobody really knows and make a guess would be to confuse and mislead people. That's why I prefer not to do so.
6. Make a wish related to Alzheimer’s.
The obvious wish is to find a cure. But in the short term, my wish would be focused on being able to understand the biology of Alzheimer's disease and its complexity, so we can really can make a significant progress in the research of this disease.