Every one of us is at risk for Alzheimer's. The disease doesn't care if you're a man or woman, rich or poor or have a family history or not.
Age is the biggest risk factor and America is getting older.
Right now, dozens of research sites across the country are testing an experimental drug to see if it might prevent memory loss associated with this terrible disease.
Veterinarian James Block has dedicated his life to helping his four-legged patients.
Now he's going to focus on helping himself and his family. His mother died of Alzheimer's and he wants to know if he or his little boy is at risk.
That's why he is planning to sign up for a prevention study investigating a new drug that targets a major risk factor for Alzheimer's.
"I would be very willing and eager to participate to see if I have predisposition through genetic influence or evidence of early Alzheimer's, or the lesions," he said.
This summer, the A4 study will enroll 1,000 people between the ages of 65 and 85 with normal thinking and memory function who have evidence of amyloid plaque build-up in the brain.
"We know that the amyloid starts being deposited in the brain typically at least 15 years before the onset of the disease and as much as 30 years before the onset of the disease," explained Mount Sinai Medical Center's Dr. Ranjan Duara.
Volunteers must undergo a pet scan where they're injected with a special tracer that highlights amyloid in the brain.
"The greater the amount of amyloid there is the redder the image tends to be," Durara added.
The investigational drug is designed to target and remove amyloid from the brain. The study participants will get a monthly infusion of the drug or a placebo for three years. Researchers are hoping to learn two things.
"Do we have a way of treating the disease before it starts, and, secondly, is amyloid really the cause of the disease?"
Finding those answers could change the future for James and the rest of us.
The Wein Center for Clinical Research is one of more than 50 A4 study sites in the U.S.
TOPIC: Saving Minds, Saving Memories: A Drug to Prevent Alzheimer's
BACKGROUND: Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia (accounts for 50-80% of dementia cases) that causes problems with thinking, memory and behavior. Alzheimer's disease slowly breaks down brain cells. As it spreads, more cells lose their ability to function and eventually die, causing significant damage to the brain. President Barack Obama signed a bill into law containing $122 million for Alzheimer's research, education, outreach and support in January of 2014. This staggering amount includes an increase of $100 million for Alzheimer's research at the National Institute on Aging, adding to nearly $484 million in funding across the National Institutes of Health in 2013. This increase translates into an additional $1 billion in research funds over the next decade. (Source: www.alz.org)
TREATMENT: There is no current cure for Alzheimer's but researchers are continuing to search for new treatments that can alter the course of the disease. Common medications for cognitive symptoms of Alzheimer's include cholinesterase inhibitors (Aricept, Exelon, Razadyne, Cognex) and memantine (Namenda). (Source: www.alz.org)
NEW TECHNOLOGY: The A4 Study (Anti-Amyloid Treatment in Asymptomatic Alzheimer's study) is a clinical study using the drug, solanezumab, which targets the amyloid beta-protein and keeps it from building up in the brain as amyloid. The co-principal investigators of the A4 study are Reisa Sperling, M.D., professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and Paul S. Aisen, M.D., professor of neurosciences at the University of California San Diego. Scientists believe that accumulation of a protein known as amyloid in the brain could play a vital role in the development of Alzheimer's related memory loss. Enrollment for the study began in March of 2014. The test includes an expansion study known as the Longitudinal Evaluation of Amyloid Risk and Neurodegeneration (LEARN) which may provide scientists with an instrument to examine the accumulation of the tau protein into tangles in the brain. The start date for LEARN is scheduled for the fall of 2014. To find out more about the A4 study, go to a4study.org/locations. (Source: Dr. Ranjan Duara, M.D.)
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THIS REPORT, PLEASE CONTACT:
Ranjan Duara, MD
Neurologist, Medical Director of the Wien Center for Alzheimer's Disease and
Memory Disorders at Mount Sinai Medical Center
Mount Sinai Medical Center
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