An Italian native, Alberto Ascherio trained in internal medicine in Italy (University of Milan), and from 1980 to 1988 he practiced medicine and public health in Latin America and Africa. He came to the United States in 1988 and obtained a doctoral degree in epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health in 1992 (DrPH).
Dr. Ascherio's research is now 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 several large cohorts comprising over 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. Most recently, he has been directing a large prospective sero-epidemiological study based on the Department of Defense Serum Repository to identify prediagnostic markers of infection and nutritional status in relation to risk of multiple sclerosis.
Dr. Ascherio is an internationally recognized expert in the epidemiology of neurodegenerative diseases and the recipient of numerous grants from the National Institutes of Health and private foundations. Among the most significant research findings of his work are: 1) Multiple sclerosis -- the identification of the Epstein-Barr virus as an etiological factor, and the prospective findings that high levels of vitamin D may reduce risk, whereas cigarette smoking may increase risk; 2) Parkinson’s disease -- increased risk associated with exposure to pesticides, possible protective effects of caffeine, physical activity, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and high levels of urate; and 3) Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis -- increased risk associated with military service and cigarette smoking, and possible protective effects of vitamin E.