Alberto Ascherio

Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition

Department of Nutrition
Department of Epidemiology

655 Huntington Avenue
Building II 3rd Floor
Boston, MA 02115
Phone: 617.432.0093
alberto.ascherio@channing.harvard.edu

Research

The purpose of our research group is to identify causes, risk factors (positive and negative), and biomarkers of susceptibility and early diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s disease (PD), and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Because of their progressive and disabling nature, these diseases have major adverse personal, social, and economic consequences. Prevention and early detection are critical, because there are no cures and the clinical diagnosis typically occurs after substantial and often irreversible neuronal loss, and at a time when neuroprotective interventions are probably too late to be fully effective.

At the core of our work is a series of prospective investigations that integrate genetic, biochemical, and traditional epidemiological approaches, and an interdisciplinary team including basic scientists, epidemiologists, and clinical investigators. Current projects include, among others:

  • The investigation of the environmental determinants of MS, with focus on the possible etiological role of the Epstein-Barr virus and other infections and the protective effect of vitamin D. This is a collaborative effort with contributions from leading virologists, immunologists and geneticists in the U.S. and Europe.
  • An investigation of the role of anti-inflammatory drugs, diet, and lifestyle in determining PD risk. This project includes collaborations with neurobiologists and clinical investigators for the discovery of biomarkers for PD. Products of this project include the design of experimental studies to find the mechanisms underlying selected epidemiological findings, most notably the possible protective effects of caffeine, anti-inflammatory drugs, and high plasma levels of urate, and of clinical studies to assess translational implications.
  • An investigation on the role of pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in the etiology of PD. This study is based on multiple populations, including a large cohort of Finnish men and women with high levels of exposure to DDT and PCB’s as documented by measurement of plasma biomarkers.
  • A consortium of large longitudinal investigations of ALS to determine the potential protective effects of vitamin E and other dietary antioxidants.

Education

M.D., 1978, University of Milan
Dr.P.H., 1992, Harvard University