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Remembering John Trojanowski
Celebrating the memory of an exceptional man, who has suddenly left us, is not an easy task. Three months have passed since we received Virginia’s announcement of John’s departure and we are still stunned by the loss. John Trojanowski passed away at the age of 75 on February 8, 2022. He was a consummate neuropathologist, a pioneer in the investigation of Tau, and a giant in the field of frontotemporal dementia. His creativity, wit, and infectious enthusiasm are engraved in the minds and hearts of those who were fortunate enough to know him well.
Since the nineteen-eighties John did work on the neurofilament proteins, the composition of neurofibrillary tangles and senile plaques, before becoming involved, in the mid-nineties, with the neuropathology of dominantly inherited cases of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) linked to chromosome 17.
At the memorable FTD conference in Lund in 2003, several of us were introduced to his particular talent as entertainer at the dinner table and on the dance floor. We all have enjoyed (and endured) the probing questions and remarks by John that added zest to the many scientific meetings he attended nationally and internationally. It was difficult to resist smiling a bit as John would soon appear, as we were expecting, behind the microphone preparing to voice his questions and comments.
John, Virginia and Murray Grossmann organized an unforgettable FTD meeting at the campus of UPenn as a Satellite of the International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease in 2004. At the following meeting in San Francisco in 2006, the announcement by Manuela Neumann, Virginia and John of the TDP-43 protein as a major constituent of the ubiquitin-positive inclusions was a most significant milestone event.
Among John’s multiple landmark papers in the field of neurodegenerative diseases, two pioneering contributions published in Science in 1998 and 2006 stand out for FTD: with the first revealing the complexity of Tau mechanisms associated to mutations in the MAPT gene and with the second announcing the central role, in FTD and ALS pathogenesis, of TDP-43, a protein not previously known to be associated to neurodegenerative diseases. His scientific contributions have been recognized many times and in 2002 he was elected to the Institute of Medicine, now called National Academy of Medicine.
Several of us have made a short visit or a longer stay at John’s and Virginia’s lab, and all of us were impressed by thorough scientific discussions between them, PhD students and postdocs. We will greatly miss John at our 2022 FTD conferences as we remember his warm personality, incisive scientific thinking, and insights into the neurobiology of neurodegenerative diseases.
John has left a void that cannot be easily filled; however, he is an icon destined to remain forever with us in spirit. We will miss his towering figure, that of the visionary scientist, whose knowledge of neuroanatomy and neuropathology became the seed for the development of multiple research directions and scientific avenues and remains for us, as part of his legacy, the inspiration for research in dementia.
The International Society of Frontotemporal Dementias (ISFTD)
Professor John Q. Trojanowski, MD, PhD (1946-2022)
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