The New York Times ran an article this week on a clinical trial being conducted on people “genetically guaranteed to develop” Alzheimer’s for a treatment that could stop the disease before it ever strikes your brain.
Few trials have ever been run to test preventative treatments for “genetically predestined diseases” — and never before has there been one for Alzheimer’s. The study will pull most of its subjects from an extended family in Colombia — a clan of about 5,000 related people. Some of the members of this familial group show a clear genetic mutation linking to the development of Alzheimer’s starting with impaired cognition around the age of 45 and resulting in complete dementia about six years after that.
Last fall, four of these family members made their way from Colombia to the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute in Phoenix, AZ to allow the scientists there to do preliminary work-ups on family members with and without the genetic mutation, and for those with the mutation, the doctors were able to look at brains both before the onset of the disease and after. (via The New York Times)
At the same time, there are other Alzheimer’s studies being initiated and run around the country — many of which are facing a shortfall of volunteers. In a catch-22, early onset patients aren’t aware they even have the disease and therefore don’t think to volunteer, while patients with mild symptoms are anxious about the impact of experimental treatments. (via CBS News)
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) hosted a summit on the disease earlier this week, where this drug trial was announced as part of the federal government’s efforts to address Alzheimer’s and the threat it poses to the country. Alzheimer’s has the unfortunate disctinction of being the only disease on the top ten list of killer diseases in the country where the annual fatality rate continues to rise each year. Read more about Alzheimer’s from the NIH here.
There are 57 medical centers participating in this study and the government is expected to recommend increasing research funding to $2 billion a year. Hopefully these clinical trials and patient studies will begin to yield good news.
For more information on one of the largest Alzheimer’s studies, including how to refer a participant, check out the ADNI website.