It is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. and is anticipated to cost the nation more than $203 billion this year.
“The work in my lab is always focused on the human element,” he said. “We’re trying to develop treatments for this terrible disease.”
The focus of his research are tiny proteins called amyloid plaques that accumulate in the brains of people who will develop the disease.
“This occurs a number of years before Alzheimer’s Disease is actually detectable in people,” he said. “If we could come up with a way to better detect amyloid plaques, we’d have a way to diagnose it early. It’s been a quest to find something.”
Erickson’s research involves imaging very small blood vessels in the brain and using nano-technology.
“We’ve developed a nano-particle, an injectable agent, that can go into the brain.
They’re like tiny balloons loaded with agents and we can load it with anything –new drugs, imaging agents, a variety of things—and we can target these amyloid plaques and then see them using an MRI brain scan or an X-Ray,” Eriksen said.
The innovative research in collaboration with Texas Children’s hospital has resulted in a company called Alzeca Biosciences which hopes to be ready for clinical trials in the coming years.
“Our goal is to take things that we discover in the lab and translate it for better human care,” he said.
The college of pharmacy is part of what’s happening at the University of Houston.