When he fell in love
He may not have initially been the eager student in the first row in medical school, but Maurizio Facheris, M.D., had known he was interested in science, genetics and biology since high school. The Italian-born doctor believed that medicine allowed him to combine those interests with helping others. Initially, he thought his calling was as a cardio surgeon, but learning about the heart didn’t evoke the passion he felt when he sat in a different lecture. That lecture was about the brain.
“For neurology, it was such a fascinating topic. Everything we feel and what we process comes from the brain,” Facheris eagerly describes. “It’s not really your gut. It’s the brain and a bunch of neurotransmitters that create a thought, a feeling, or a movement. I just fell in love.”
For the first time, Facheris says, he was in the front row. At first, Facheris was assigned to an Alzheimer’s program, but when he started his residency in Milan, Italy, he took interest in Parkinson’s research. Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder where the brain loses its ability to produce dopamine, which leads to muscular rigidity, tremors and slowness of movement.
“This track was exciting for me because, unlike Alzheimer’s, in the simplistic view of that time, I thought if we could stop those neurons from dying and make them regrow, we could restore their function or for example control movement. In Alzheimer’s the main work is focused on preventing further degeneration. Once the neurons that created a memory are gone, that memory is gone forever, as well as the personality of that patient, even if we could put in new neurons.”