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Our Research

achievements    how we're unique    Northwestern University synergies    recognition    goals    how close are we?


Our identification of a new toxic protein altered the landscape of Alzheimer's research, and it continues to lead the way.

The neurotoxin we discovered is called an ADDL, short for Amyloid beta-Derived Diffusible Ligand, also known as beta-amyloid oligomer or
Aβ oligomer
. It's very small, and it's highly toxic.

When we discovered ADDLs in 1996, the Alzheimer's research community was focused on an entirely different molecule, the fibrillar amyloid found in plaques. The graphic at the right illustrates this distinction.

After making this exciting discovery, we carried out a multi-year clinical study to validate the concept that ADDLs were central to the mechanism of Alzheimer's dementia.

Results were conclusive. Brain tissue afflicted with Alzheimer's disease displayed dramatic levels of ADDLs; healthy brains contained virtually none.

review our key publications

Image courtesy of the Health & Human Services Progress Report on Alzheimer's disease


Until our discovery of ADDLS (the small molecules in the diagram labeled oligomers), scientists focused for many years on the amyloid plaque as the root cause of damage in brain neurons. (What is an ADDL?)

Listen to Dr. Klein talk about ADDLs:
The oligomer cascade hypothesis, their role in Alzheimer's, their mechanisms of action, and targeting them for diagnostics and treatment.

How We're Unique

Our discovery of ADDLs and the methods we used to get there have led to our growing reputation around the world as a top research facility that

has a unique and widely recognized understanding of ADDL molecules and how to handle them in the lab,

has developed antibodies to deal with these toxic proteins,

is leading the way to discover effective diagnostics and improved therapeutics in the fight against Alzheimer's disease,

can achieve positive forward-reaching results with higher success rates at lower costs, and

is focused on linking laboratory findings to clinical interventions, one of the key objectives defined by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in its 2007-2012 strategic plan as "translational research."

Link to the NIH strategic plan

Image from the Klein Lab archives.

The Klein Lab is committed to moving its discoveries from the lab to the practical world of patients in need.

That's why we structure our research in the manner we have.

Northwestern University Synergies

In addition, we have additional advantages by being surrounded by stellar academic research organizations at Northwestern University, with which we closely partner. These include

the Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences at Northwestern University, allowing us to benefit from leading-edge scientific discoveries and nanotechnology research,

the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimers Disease Center at Northwestern University, a world recognized leader in dementia treatment and research, and

the Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center at Northwestern University, one of the countrys premier sources for nanotechnology research.

What's nanotechnology?






Image from the Klein Lab archives


Our results and conclusions have been widely acclaimed and corroborated by the research community.

Publications. Dr. Klein's original report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has been cited by other medical researchers more than 2,100 times.

  Why is this number significant?

  International Research Labs. We've fostered a global network that significantly furthers demonstrable progress on Alzheimer's disease research.

Organizations. Leaders of the Alzheimer's program at the National Institutes of Health recognize ADDLs as responsible for brain damage in Alzheimer's patients.

International Meetings. Dr. Klein has been featured as a plenary lecturer at many meetings, including those sponsored by

  • The Alzheimer's Association
  • Ipsen Foundation of Paris
  • International Society for Neurochemistry
  • Nobel Institute of Chemistry

and many other organizations.

Partial list of keynote addresses & lectures delivered by Dr. Klein

Links to our scientific literature

Links to references to the Klein Lab's work on ADDLs in the news

Our Goals

With our discovery of ADDLs, we have become known as the place where Alzheimer’s disease may soon become Just a Memory. Our lab is internationally recognized as the place that can most effectively work with the toxic proteins we identified.

We've defined seven specific areas for ongoing research:


Find out why ADDLs accumulate in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. Develop strategies to prevent their toxic build up.

Damage Control

Find new ways to block the molecular damage and brain cell loss caused by ADDLs. Create new therapeutics based on ADDL disease-inducing mechanisms.

New Drugs

Pave the way for new drugs by applying ADDL-based strategies that overcome the limitations of such approved Alzheimer's drugs as Namenda and Aricept.

Memory Recovery

Target ADDL-induced brain damage with new therapies, returning normal lifestyles to Alzheimer’s patients, their caregivers and families.

Life-style Effects

Define life-style changes that protect against ADDLs, such as diet or exercise.


Identify potential Alzheimers patients as early as possible by establishing sensitive and accurate clinical tests, thereby enhancing the benefits of new therapeutic drugs.


Extend the concepts developed for ADDL-based therapies and diagnostics to other major neurological afflictions such as Parkinson’s.

With your financial support, we can meet these ambitious but urgent commitments.
Here's how you can help

How Close Are We?

An ADDL vaccine based on our work is anticipated to begin clinical trials in the upcoming year.

Therapeutic strategies that improve on vaccines should soon follow.

We have discovered that Namenda, one of the two types of Alzheimer's drugs now prescribed, partially blocks ADDL toxicity. Improved therapies should be attainable.

We're developing a clinical lab test based on our ADDL findings and nanotechnology. This innovative diagnostic is designed to provide early detection and, therefore, greater potential for success of future therapeutics.

Exciting news about diagnosing and effectively treating Alzheimer's should be in the headlines in a few years.

What's nanotechnology?

Image from the Klein Lab archives


The Klein Lab at Northwestern University
2205 Tech Drive
Evanston, Illinois 60208-3520


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