Dr. Benjamin Harrison

BIDDEFORD — Every 65 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s disease and if a member of your family is among the 5.8 million Americans currently living with the disease, you’re probably grateful for the work of Dr. Benjamin Harrison of the University of New England.

Harrison, an assistant professor in the Biomedical Science Department of UNE’s College of Osteopathic Medicine, has received a grant of more than $315,000 from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health to study Alzheimer’s disease. The goal of Harrison’s research is to come up with effective therapies that target multiple facets of Alzheimer’s disease.

Right now there are no available therapeutic treatments that can prevent the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and it has been more than 15 years since a new medication to treat it has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

In his application for the grant, Harrison said he’s working to create a better understanding of specific biochemical pathways involved in the formation of brain lesions, a major component of the disease by looking at how these specific pathways can be modified to promote cell survival and maintain the health of cells that are typically damaged by Alzheimer’s disease.

His hope is to discover effective therapies that will prevent, delay or even reverse brain lesions and moving forward Alzheimer’s disease treatments will most likely be a combination of therapies that will be adjusted as the disease progresses and modified for different patients.

Possessing a broad background in biochemistry, genomics and bioinformatics, Harrison has specific training and expertise in models of neuroplasticity in the adult peripheral nervous system.

He completed his bachelor’s degree in molecular genetics at Swansea University in Wales where, in conjunction with GlaxoSmithKline, he completed his undergraduate research dissertation on transcriptomics. Harrison went on to receive his doctorate from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

While studying in Scotland, Harrison worked at the department of developmental neurobiology at King’s College London studying protein-protein interactions in signal transduction. Choosing to focus his research on mechanisms of neuroplasticity, Harrison moved to the United States for postdoctoral training at the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center before joining the faculty at UNE in 2017.

Harrison’s grant will supplement his work with the Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) for the Study of Pain and Sensory Function, an existing National Institute of Health-funded program at UNE that contributes to the scientific understanding of the neurobiology of chronic pain, facilitating the discovery and development of novel therapies..

He is principle investigator for COBRE ’s Center of Biomedical Research Excellence for the Study of Pain and Sensory Function.

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