Cancer, infections and other still undescribed factors can trigger the body’s immune system. In some patients’ this results in an autoimmune attack against healthy tissue such as cells of the nervous system that results in a variety of neurological syndromes. This can lead to deficits such as memory loss, seizures, movement disorders, muscle weakness, and psychosis.
The Gertrud Reemtsma Foundation has now paid tribute to Jerome Posner, Angela Vincent and Josep Dalmau for their research into how autoimmunity produces these neurological disorders. Their work has been pivotal in ensuring that many of these disorders are now recognised and patients promptly treated offering the best opportunity for neurologic improvement. In recognition of their outstanding achievement, the researchers have been awarded the Gertrud Reemtsma Foundation's K. J. Zülch Prize worth 50,000 euro. The award ceremony will take place in Cologne, Germany on 21 September 2018.
The prize winners have made crucial advances in research into these immune diseases by providing detailed clinical descriptions and through the development of simple diagnostic tests that allowed practitioners to quickly recognize, diagnose, and treat these patients. Their work has also provided insights into how cancers and other triggers such as viral infections initiate the autoimmune attack. This has opened new avenues to research into how to prevent and optimally treat these diseases.
Professor Angela Vincent initially studied autoimmune diseases of the peripheral nervous system in which signal transmission between nerves and muscles are impaired. This led her to the then revolutionary insight that certain antibodies can also attack the central nervous system. She subsequently developed the diagnostic methods widely used in hospitals today.