More than 30 years ago, Berislav Zlokovic, MD, PhD, now director of the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute, proposed a hypothesis that flaws in the blood-brain barrier — which keeps harmful substances in the blood from entering brain tissue — could be the underlying cause of most cognitive disorders. This theory disagreed with the then common idea that the accumulation of amyloid beta plaque was the main cause of Alzheimer’s disease. Arthur W. Toga, PhD, director of the USC Mark and Mary Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute, became his collaborator by creating a type of brain imaging technology that made crucial details visible to Zlokovic.

Now the National Institute on Aging, a division of the National Institutes of Health, has awarded Zlokovic and Toga $16.1 million to continue research on the role that leaks in the blood-brain barrier play in the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

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