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Prof. Jan Potempa awarded the honorary doctorate of the University of Amsterdam

Prof. Jan Potempa awarded the honorary doctorate of the University of Amsterdam

On 8 January 2020, the honorary doctorate of the University of Amsterdam (UvA) was awarded to Prof. Jan Potempa, the internationally distinguished biochemist and microbiologist from the Jagiellonian University Faculty of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Biotechnology., in recognition of his ground-breaking research into the ability of oral bacteria to break down the blood-brain barrier and their role in the development of Alzheimer's disease.

The honorary doctorate was awarded during an online ceremony on the 389th anniversary of the UvA foundation.

As stated by the UvA, “Prof. Jan Potempa's main scientific focus is on the pathogenicity of infectious diseases. Drawing on his extensive knowledge of oral biology, Potempa has successfully demonstrated that the mouth is not an autonomously functioning organ and that bacteria (mainly those linked to periodontitis) and their pathological constituents can enter the brain and impact the development of Alzheimer's disease.”

“Jan Potempa's work has greatly contributed to our understanding of the molecular basis that determines the virulence of oral pathogenic micro-organisms”, explains Prof. Bruno Loos from the Academic Centre for Dentistry in Amsterdam, Prof. Potempa’s honorary supervisor.

Prof. Potempa’s research on the possible role of pathogenic oral bacteria caught widespread international attention in 2019. His studies in this area resulted in the filing of several patents, initiating the development of drugs aimed to inhibit bacterial proteolytic enzymes.

“Jan Potempa is an exceptional researcher. His groundbreaking research leads to new scientific insights and has a major impact in the field of oral health. I am incredibly proud that we will be awarding Jan Potempa this honorary doctorate on behalf of the University of Amsterdam during our Dies Natalis,” said the UvA Rector Prof. Karen Maex.

Prof. Jan Potempa is a world famous biochemist and microbiologist. Since 2005 he has been heading the Department of Microbiology of the JU Faculty of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Biotechnology. Since 2009 he has also been Professor of the Department of Oral Immunology and Infectious Diseases at the University of Louisville School of Dentistry. His research focuses on the role of Porphyromonas gingivalis bacteria in the onset and development of periodontitis. Together with his collaborators he isolated and characterised 7 enzymes degrading proteins produced by these bacteria, including gingipains (cysteine protease). He proved that it is gingipains that are the key factor facilitating the development of periodontitis, showing that they are responsible for the disruption of the body’s immune rection, which, instead of eliminating the bacteria, turns against its own tissues, leading the development of the disease. Prof. Potempa’s studies have shown that persons affected with the periodontitis are more susceptible to cardiovascular diseases, arthritis, aspiration pneumonia, or neurodegenerative changes in the brain contributing to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Prof. Jan Potempa’s discoveries have fundamentally changed the way of thinking about the genesis of periodontitis. His research may lead to the development of more effective drugs against this illness, and in turn, to better prevention of diseases related to periodontitis.  

The video of the ceremony is available below.

Source: UvA website

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