It is with deep sadness that we inform you of the death of our colleague and friend, Prof. Charles Duyckaerts, who left us on the evening of Saturday, August 6, after several years of battling illness.
Head of the neuropathology department at Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital for many years, and co-director and then active member of the “Alzheimer’s disease and prion diseases” team at the Paris Brain Institute, Charles was a luminous figure at the Institute and in the Neurosciences unit.
A specialist in the neuropathological approach to neurodegenerative diseases, in particular Alzheimer’s disease, he carried out numerous works of international scope and, in 2006, he was awarded the prestigious “Henry Wisniewski award for lifetime achievement in Alzheimer research”. In Alzheimer’s disease, he showed the heterogeneity of neuronal loss according to brain regions, highlighting the propagation of neurotoxic aggregates from the neocortex and hippocampus to other areas of the brain according to neuroanatomical connections. Charles contributed considerably to the demonstration of a prion-like dissemination, by “contamination”, of protein aggregates in Alzheimer’s disease. He also reinforced the hypothesis of iatrogenic human transmission of this disease after dura mater transplantation.
His expertise played a major role in the establishment of diagnostic criteria for Alzheimer’s disease, particularly in the pre-clinical stages. And it is with passion, rigor, and energy that he also brought together researchers and patient associations to create the “Neuro-CEB” brain tissue bank, which collects tissue from patients with Alzheimer’s disease and many other neurodegenerative pathologies.
An encyclopedic knowledge, a powerful spirit of synthesis, a pronounced taste for the development of new methods of observation, exceptional open-mindedness… and immense modesty characterized Charles Duyckaerts. The clarity of his courses and conferences, always accompanied by remarkably didactic diagrams, will remain in the memory of those who had the chance to attend them.
“Passionate about his work, he arrived at the laboratory at dawn and usually left only at the end of the day. He loved in-depth work, avoided opportunities to show off too much, and avoided discussions when he considered them sterile. […] And for his patients and his fellow researchers, he always had enough time” says Danielle Seilhean.
For his team, he was a passionate scientist and pathologist;
“his intellectual rigour and curiosity enabled him to break through barriers of traditional neuropathology, to explore new microscopies, the most advanced analytical techniques, modelling, and mathematical morphology tools. One always came away transformed by the lively scientific discussions or histological slide sessions he led. His outstanding teaching skills were much appreciated, and he did not count the time he devoted to researchers, students, and patients. He remains a model of humanity in scientific and medical world. As he leaves us, we measure all that he transmitted to us and that will remain forever.”
At the Paris Brain Institute, Charles was a colleague appreciated by all, always ready to listen, to help and to shed light on his areas of expertise. In recent years, despite the fatigue caused by his illness, he continued to share his knowledge and engage at the forefront of research with the same enthusiasm.
The entire staff of the Institute sends its affection to his wife, Patricia Gaspar, and his children and to all of his family, friends and colleagues.