Alberto Ascherio, M.D.
CFI Epidemiology Research
Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition
Harvard School of Public Health
An Italian native, Alberto Ascherio, M.D., received his medical degree from the University of Milan in 1978 and a diploma in tropical medicine and hygiene from the University of London, UK, in 1983. From 1980 to 1988 he practiced medicine and public health in Latin America and Africa. He came to the United States in 1988 and earned his doctoral degree in epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health in 1992.
Dr. Ascherio’s research is primarily devoted to finding the causes of multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Since 1997, he has directed the investigation of neurodegenerative diseases in the Nurses’ Health Study and other large cohorts comprising more than 400,000 men and women who have provided detailed information on their dietary habits and lifestyle in addition to blood or cheek cell samples for genetic and other laboratory analyses.
Among his ongoing projects are several large prospective seroepidemiological investigations to identify prediagnostic markers of infection and nutritional status in relation to risk and clinical progression of multiple sclerosis and Parkinson disease.
Among the most significant research findings of his work are the identification of the Epstein-Barr virus as an etiological factor in multiple sclerosis, the findings that high levels of vitamin D may reduce multiple sclerosis risk, whereas cigarette smoking may increase risk, and the observations that caffeine, ibuprofen and high levels of blood urate are negative risk factors for Parkinson disease. High blood urate is also a favorable prognostic factor in Parkinson disease, a finding that has lead to an ongoing clinical trial. The area of research of the Neuroepidemiology group that he is leading has recently expanded to encompass risk factors for depression and autism.