Nearly 5.4 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. According to the 2016 Facts and Figures State Sheet from the Alzheimer’s Association, this includes 89,000 people in Alabama, and experts expect that number to triple by 2050.
With the growing need to address this devastating disease, researchers are shifting their focus from treatment to prevention. This new paradigm could bring hope to millions who may be at risk for developing Alzheimer’s.
A groundbreaking study being conducted at the University of Alabama at Birmingham is looking for volunteers who have the earliest changes in their brain associated with the disease, but do not yet have any symptoms. Healthy people ages 65-85 with normal memory are needed to be screened for this clinical trial, which aims to prevent memory loss associated with the disease.
According to a recent article in Newsweek, experts believe that, by targeting pre-symptomatic participants, they can prevent Alzheimer’s prior to the disease’s developing and causing irreversible damage.
“With this new approach, even partial success — an appreciable slowing of brain degeneration — could have a big impact,” said Reisa Sperling, M.D., a neurologist who directs the Center for Alzheimer’s Research and Treatment at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “Ultimately, we need to start treating people before there are symptoms.”
The study, known as the A4 Study (which stands for the Anti-Amyloid in Asymptomatic Alzheimer’s study) seeks to delay Alzheimer’s-related brain damage and curb memory loss before any outward signs develop.
|“Our focus now is on recognizing Alzheimer’s disease early enough that we can take steps to slow its progression. With advanced imaging equipment and research techniques now available, we can spot Alzheimer’s before symptoms emerge and take appropriate actions.”|
“At present, we can’t reverse the symptoms of dementia,” said David Geldmacher, M.D., director of the UAB Memory Disorders program and local principal investigator of the A4 study. “Our focus now is on recognizing Alzheimer’s disease early enough that we can take steps to slow its progression. With advanced imaging equipment and research techniques now available, we can spot Alzheimer’s before symptoms emerge and take appropriate actions.”
This landmark study takes a new approach to Alzheimer’s research by testing for an elevated level of a protein known as ‘amyloid’ in the brain. Scientists believe that elevated amyloid may play an important role in the eventual development of memory loss and Alzheimer’s.
Researchers say the goal of the A4 Study is to test whether an investigational drug that targets amyloid plaques can help to slow the progression of memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s.
Another major emphasis of the study is to help determine why certain populations, including African-Americans and Hispanics, are more likely than others to develop the disease. The A4 Study is seeking 1,000 healthy participants who may be at risk for Alzheimer’s-related memory loss have no outward signs of the disease. The participants will enroll in study sites across the United States. Researchers estimate that 10,000 people will need to be screened to find 1,000 individuals who qualify for the study.
Potential study volunteers can learn more, including how to enroll, by visiting the A4 Study website at A4study.org.