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Heart attack research wins prestigious award

This year's SFr1 million prize went to three research teams Keystone

Research teams working on heart attacks, skin cancer and drug addiction have carried off this year’s Leenaards prizes.

This content was published on March 24, 2004 - 15:34

The awards, worth SFr1 million ($785,000) in total, were announced in Lausanne on Wednesday and will be presented by the Leenaards Foundation later this week.

The first prize went to a team from Geneva University Hospital led by Marisa Jaconi for stem cell research into rebuilding heart muscle.

The team has developed a technique - currently being tested on rats - to repair muscle damaged by a heart attack.

The building of new heart muscle cells replaces dead tissue and allows the organ to function again.

Although trials on humans are still a long way away, the technique suggests new possibilities for treating diabetes, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.

The second project selected by the foundation is joint research into skin cancer by Geneva University Hospital and the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in Epalinges near Lausanne.

The teams led by Vincent Piguet and Frédéric Lévy are trying to discover why apparently harmless moles sometimes develop into malignant melanoma.

If successful, the research could be a step on the way to a vaccine which would be able to activate the body’s immune system to fight cancerous cells more effectively.

Addiction

The third prize went to a study into the cause of addiction.

Christian Lüscher of Geneva University Hospital and Carl Petersen of the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne are investigating why some individuals are incapable of resisting chocolate, cigarettes or drugs.

They are trying to discover exactly what happens in the brains of mice when they activate that part of the organ which is responsible for pleasant sensations.

The Leenaards prizes - designed to encourage scientific research - have been awarded annually for the past six years to researchers in the Lake Geneva region.

The SFr1 million award is distributed fairly equally among the winning teams.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

The first prize went to a team from Geneva University Hospital for stem cell research into rebuilding heart muscle after a heart attack.

The second prize was awarded for joint research into skin cancer by Geneva University Hospital and the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in Epalinges.

The third prize went to researchers at Geneva University Hospital and the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne who are investigating drug dependency.

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