The 2011 Michael Prize was awarded to
Department of Neuro Pathology
Academic Medical Center
University of Amsterdam
Amsterdam (The Netherlands)
Native of Italy (17-7-1965) Eleonora Aronica studied Medicine and Surgery at the University of Catania (Italy) where she graduated and completed the neurology residence program in 1993. After receiving a doctorate from the University of Amsterdam in The Netherlands, she had research associated appointments at the Wadsworth Center for Laboratories and Research, in Albany (NY, USA) and at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Department of Neuroscience in New York (1993-1996). In 1996 she moved to The Netherlands and after receiving the “Teding van Berkhout” fellowship on epilepsy research she joined the Department of Neuropathology of the Academic Medical Center (AMC) at the University of Amsterdam. Here she completed the Neuropathology residence program and is presently working as neuropathologist. She is actively involved in the different research lines, including , including neuro-oncology, neurodegenerative diseases and epilepsy. She is the author of more than 200 peer-reviewed original articles and reviewer for various scientific journals.
The Awards Committee for the Michael Prize 2011 unanimously recommends Dr. Eleonora Aronica for this distinguished Prize. Dr Aronica is one of the unique individuals who has the capability to carry out translational research with data from both basic science and clinical research studies.
The three submitted papers for which the Committee was enthusiastically recommending this award indeed validate this point. The paper published in the European Journal of Neuroscience in 2010 determined the expression patterns of mi-R-146a, an inflammation-associated mi-RNA in experimental and human temporal lobe epilepsy. In this paper, Dr. Aronica and colleagues were able to demonstrate that this mi-RNA is present in both experimental epilepsy and in specimens obtained from human tissues of people with epilepsy. It supports the possible involvement of mi-RNAs in the modulation of astroglia inflammation response that may occur with temporal lobe epilepsy, and emphasizes the need to develop approaches addressing this specific mechanism.
In her second paper published in Epilepsia in 2010, Dr. Aronica evaluated both innate and adoptive immunity in Type 1 & 2 focal cortical dysplasias. The key finding is that there is prominent activation of both innate and adopted immunity in focal dysplasia Type 2 cases which suggest that inflammation plays a role in focal cortical dysplasia Type 2, and not in Type 1. Again this takes forward the observation from experimental studies with documentation of similar data in humans.
Finally, in the last paper entitled ”Gene expression analysis of tuberous sclerosis complex cortical tubers reveals increased expression of adhesions and inflammatory factors” published in Brain Pathology in 2009, Dr. Aronica and her group were able to identify several genes related to synaptic transmission in the area near the tubers that are prone to produce seizures, and these genes are absent in control autopsy tissue.
These are just three of the several papers published by Dr. Aronica over the past year attesting to her outstanding productivity and research acumen. These publications are representative of her efforts to combine experimental and clinical data needed to begin formulating new therapeutic approaches for the control of intractable epilepsy, taking into account both innate and acquired mechanisms that participate in the process of epileptogenesis and epilepsy.
Dr. Eleonora Aronica
The prize money of € 20.000 was kindly donated by UCB. The Michael Prize was presented at the International Epilepsy Congress in Rome on August, 29th 2011.