The endowed chair is held for a five-year term by a recipient who conducts research and educational activities related to aging and longevity in the areas of molecular biology, neuroscience and immunology.
A leader in his field, Barrio has focused his research on developing molecular imaging probes for positron emission tomography (PET), a technology that allows scientists to image the biochemical and cellular processes in the human brain. Barrio's work has impacted human disease evaluation and treatment for several illnesses, including Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases.
Barrio created a new method for measuring the physical evidence of Alzheimer's disease in the body using a brain-diffusible chemical marker called FDDNP, a molecule that binds to amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, the abnormal proteins which are the hallmarks of the disease. A brain PET scan reveals areas with increased FDDNP binding, giving researchers and clinicians a more accurate view of disease progression. Previously, a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease could only be confirmed by autopsy.
Barrio and his colleagues also developed other metabolic markers and methods for measuring neuronal losses. These discoveries are helping to improve current diagnostic methods, establishing patterns of disease evolution in living subjects and determining the therapeutic effects of experimental drugs.
"I'm very pleased to accept this endowed chair appointment, which will help continue my research into developing new diagnostic tools to track disease development of dementing illnesses like Alzheimer's," Barrio said.
"We are very grateful to the Plott family for their continued support and commitment to advancing education and research on aging," said Dr. Gary Small, UCLA's Parlow-Solomon Professor on Aging and director of the UCLA Center on Aging.
Elizabeth Plott is a member of the UCLA Center on Aging's board of directors. The recipient of the Plott Chair is selected by a committee of UCLA aging experts in the fields of neurology, geriatrics, psychiatry and pathology. The endowed chair was established in 1991.
Barrio has received numerous awards and honors for his research, including the Society of Nuclear Medicine's Aebersold Award for outstanding achievement in basic sciences and the George von Hevesy Prize from the George von Hevesy Foundation. Barrio was also inducted into the Spanish Society of Nuclear Medicine and was an invited speaker at the Nobel conference on molecular imaging. He also lectures at major universities and scientific meetings throughout the world. In addition, he is the founding editor and editor-in-chief of Molecular Imaging and Biology, a leading specialty journal in his area of expertise.
A member of the UCLA faculty since 1979, Barrio is currently a member of the Crump Institute for Biological Imaging at UCLA and is also the principal investigator at UCLA's Institute for Molecular Medicine.
Barrios earned a bachelor's degree and a doctorate in biochemistry from the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina and a doctorate in chemistry from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He served in several academic positions before coming to UCLA.