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Alberto Ascherio, MD, PhD

Research Areas: Epidemiology; neurodegenerative diseases; multiple sclerosis; Parkinson disease; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Epstein-Barr virus; vitamin D; risk factors; biomarkers; epigenetic

Alberto Ascherio, MD, PhD, is a Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health and a Professor of Medicine at the Harvard Medical School. Dr. Ascherio received a Doctorate in Medicine and Surgery from the University of Milan and worked for several years in medicine and public health in Latin America and Africa before obtaining a Master and Doctorate in Public Health from Harvard. Dr. Ascherio has focused much of his work over the past 25 years on discovering the causes of neurodegenerative diseases, including multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and cognitive decline. He has conducted longitudinal studies in many populations, including, among others, the Nurses’ Health Studies I and II, the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, the Cancer Prevention Study-II, the U.S Army, Navy and Air Force, the Danish MS Registry, and the Finnish Maternal Cohort. These studies have contributed to identifying several biomarkers and modifiable risk factors for MS (e.g. cigarette smoking, vitamin D insufficiency, and childhood obesity), Parkinson (pesticide exposure, low caffeine intake, low physical activity), and ALS (cigarette smoking, military service, low body mass index), and have in some cases provided the rationale for randomized trials (e.g. on physical activity in Parkinson disease). His most notable scientific contribution stems from the 20-year long investigation of over 10 million young adults that led to the recent breakthrough discovery that MS is a rare complication of infection with the Epstein-Barr virus.

Dr. Ascherio has published over 400 original research papers and reviews. His work has been recognized with several awards, including a Doctor of Medicine honoris causa from the University of Southern Denmark in recognition of his work on vitamin D insufficiency as a risk factor for MS.

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