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Can Alzheimer's Disease be Blocked?

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MADISON- Scientists, including those from the University of Wisconsin, are planning to "block" and tackle Alzheimer's disease.
Researchers from the UW School of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH) and 39 other sites across the country are recruiting 400 volunteers for a clinical trial of a drug that targets amyloid beta, a protein that can build up plaque and damage nerve cells.
The studies will focus on an experimental medication to block amyloid beta from binding to a receptor in the brain. Plaque buildup can cause nerve damage and inflammation in the brain that can lead to progressive memory loss and behavioral changes in people with Alzheimer's disease.
The studies, which are coordinated by the University of California at San Diego (UCSD), seek volunteers aged 50 and older with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease. The data from the research, a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial, will be collected over 18 months.
"While most current Alzheimer's disease therapies focus on the various symptoms of cognitive impairment, this trial will test whether we can modify actual progression of the disease itself," said Dr. Douglas Galasko, professor of neurology at UCSD and study principal investigator.
Dr. Sanjay Asthana, the local principal investigator for the study at the University of Wisconsin Comprehensive Memory Program, added that more than just disease progression will be tracked by the study.
"We will also examine various biological markers of the disease, including the degree of shrinkage of the brain and amyloid buildup in the brain," said Asthana.
The research will use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and Positron Emission Tomography (PET) imaging to measure changes in the brain.
To ensure unbiased results, the study design demands that neither the researchers nor the study participants will know who will be receiving the drug or a placebo.
The industry-sponsored study is being conducted by the Alzheimer's disease Cooperative Study (ADCS), a consortium of leading researchers supported by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). 
The ADCS consortium is a public resource, supported by the NIA, to facilitate the study of potential new therapies for Alzheimer's disease. Its nationwide outreach is critical to the recruitment of participants into such studies.
The drug, which has been tested in animals and in preliminary human studies, is being studied in this Phase II clinical trial to determine if it will slow the progressive decline associated with Alzheimer's disease.
"Progress in treating and preventing Alzheimer's would just not be possible without the dedication of the patients and families who volunteer for clinical trials," said Neil Buckholtz, PhD, chief of the NIA Dementias of Aging Branch.
Physicians and nurses will monitor participants during regular visits and measure the severity and progression of disease using standard tests of functional and cognitive abilities.
Much of the preclinical, basic research connecting the brain receptor to amyloid beta that led to the current study was performed by scientists at Columbia University, the University of Perugia in Italy and the University of Magdeburg in Germany.
To learn more about the study, go to the Wisconsin Comprehensive Memory Program's website or contact NIA's Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center at (800) 438-4380 or by e-mail at
To view a list of the research sites or for information on dementia and aging, go to

Date Published: 09/10/2008

News tag(s):  neurology

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