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Maiken Nedergaard Wins 2024 HFSP Nakasone Award for Pioneering Science of Sleep and Neurodegenerative Disease

HFSP is pleased to award the 2024 HFSP Nakasone Award to Maiken Nedergaard for “for her groundbreaking discovery and exploration of the glymphatic system that has transformed our understanding of the importance of sleep.”

Maiken Nedergaard Wins 2024 HFSP Nakasone Award
Maiken Nedergaard Wins 2024 HFSP Nakasone Award 


Over the last decade, her groundbreaking research revealed that the glymphatic system eliminates potential neurotoxic metabolites during sleep, which has pivoted the scientific community toward a very different understanding of brain health, particularly the restorative powers of sleep, and its protective role against neurodegenerative diseases.

“Dr. Nedergaard forever changed the way we understand sleep as an essential biological function that promotes brain health and plays a crucial role in preventing diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinsons, and Huntington Disease,” said HFSPO Secretary-General Pavel Kabat. “It is a fundamental discovery worthy of being honored with the 2024 HFSP Nakasone Award.”

The HFSP Nakasone Award was established in 2010 to honor scientists who have made key breakthroughs in fields at the forefront of the life sciences. It recognizes the vision of Japan’s former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, who envisioned and created the International Human Frontier Science Program beginning with a charter by the global leaders of the G7 nations in 1987.

Nedergaard is co-director of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine and a Professor of Neuroscience, Neurosurgery, and Neurology at the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, New York. She is also the co-director of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine and a Professor of Glial Cell Biology at the University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark.

One of her most intriguing insights regarding the glymphatic system is that it is primarily active during sleep and shuts down shortly after awakening. This observation may explain the century-old question of why we need to sleep: we sleep because we need to clear the brain of metabolic waste products that accumulate during wakefulness. The loss of a normal sleep architecture accelerates the progression of neurodegenerative diseases by insufficient clearance of Amyloid-b, Tau, a-synuclein, huntingtin (Htt), and TDP-43 peptide/proteins. This concept has received considerable attention because dementing diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington's diseases, as well as frontotemporal dementia, are often preceded by years of sleep disturbances. Studies from her lab have also shown that the glymphatic system deteriorates while we age and can be impaired by disrupted sleep, hypertension, and traumatic brain injury. In a world where seniors over the age of 65, constitute the fastest growing segment of our population, Nedergaard has provided transformative insights and ushered in a new era of therapeutic exploration that is essential for today’s patients.

Please see the HFSP full description of the 2024 Nakasone Award for full details on Nedergaard’s discoveries, standing, and citations.

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