This month's expert is Pierre N. Tariot, MD, board-certified physician in internal medicine and geriatric psychiatry. Dr. Tariot is the Director of Banner Alzheimer's Institute and Co-Director, Alzheimer's Prevention Initiative.
Dear Dr. Tariot:
The parent of a dear family friend was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. When I asked my friend how I could help, she suggested I get involved in an Alzheimer's research study. What kinds of research studies are going on and which are most promising? How do I find out about Alzheimer's research studies?
I'm glad both you and your friend recognize that preventing or ending Alzheimer's disease requires people to get involved in research studies. Alzheimer's studies seek people diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, people who have the biological characteristics that may predispose them to Alzheimer's disease, and healthy people who care about ending Alzheimer's.
The best way for you to learn about potential research opportunities is to join the Alzheimer's Prevention Registry. The Registry features research study opportunities for which you or your friend may be eligible. The studies come in many forms with a set of eligibility requirements, which means not everyone will qualify to enroll in every study. Head over to the Alzheimer's Prevention Registry website and peruse the variety of study opportunities. You'll be impressed and I hope inspired.
What kinds of studies are going on? When it comes to Alzheimer's disease, there are multiple research approaches. Some studies seek to treat the symptoms of Alzheimer's while others pursue ways to slow or halt its progression. Therapies that target the underlying pathology of Alzheimer's are currently in the spotlight. Most disease modifying therapy research centers on removal of amyloid plaques, one of the hallmark pathological features of Alzheimer's.
Amyloid is an abnormal protein that fragments off of a larger, normal protein. Amyloid develops when, for unknown reasons, brain enzymes become activated and split or cut the normal proteins. These fragments cluster together into larger plaques causing surrounding microscopic inflammation. Scientific evidence supports the hypothesis that amyloid is likely responsible for the progression of Alzheimer's.
Most investigational therapies related to reducing amyloid plaques focus on decreasing production or increasing removal of amyloid. Among the many amyloid-based therapies currently being tested are drugs to inhibit the enzymes responsible for creating amyloid, therapies to prevent amyloid clustering, and immunotherapy studies that use either infusion or injection therapy to engage a person's immune system in ridding the body of amyloid.
Advances in research are spurring new attempts at developing amyloid-based interventions for the prevention of Alzheimer's, that is, using anti-amyloid agents in cognitively normal people who have a genetic predisposition to Alzheimer's, but have not yet exhibited symptoms of the disease. This approach is the crux of the Alzheimer's Prevention Initiative, an international collaborative effort being spearheaded by Banner Alzheimer's Institute that hopes to end Alzheimer's disease and launch a new era of prevention research.
Learn more about the Alzheimer's Prevention Initiative and join the Alzheimer's Prevention Registry at www.endALZnow.org.