A trial to begin soon will be one of only a few ever done to test prevention treatments for any genetically predestined disease… and  is unprecedented in Alzheimer’s research. This study is actually the first to concentrate on people who are cognitively normal, but at a very high risk for Alzheimer’s, according to Dr. Francis S. Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health.

The participants will be mostly derived from an extended family of 5,000 people who live in and around Medellin, Colombia.  This family is believed to have more members with Alzheimer’s than any other family in the world.  For those in the family who have specific genetic mutations for the disease, cognitive impairment usually begins around 45 years of age… and full-blown dementia around 51.  Dr. Eric M. Reiman, is the executive director of the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute in Phoenix, and a lead researcher in the study.  He said that while a relatively small percentage of people with Alzheimer’s have the genetic early-onset form of the disease like the Colombian family, the trial will help answer questions that apply to the millions of people worldwide who develop the conventional form of it.

The drug used in the trial is Crenezumab, which attacks the formation of amyloid plaques in the brain. Amyloid are protein fragments the body produces normally.  In people with Alzheimer’s the fragments accumulate to form hard plaques.  If the drug is successful in forestalling memory or cognitive problems, and plaque formations, scientists believe that prevention or delay of the disease is possible… and that the answer lies with targeting the amyloid years before dementia develops.  There are researchers elsewhere who have other theories as to the underlying cause of the disease.

Dr. Francisco Lopera, a Colombian neurologist, and leader of the study said Crenezumab was partly chosen because it appears to be safer than other drugs.  Lopera, who has worked with the Colombian family for decades, and has witnessed firsthand their agony sees the trial as a personal victory.  “This is an opportunity that they were waiting for a long time.  This is the first time we can give them hope.”  And the world hope as well…….. The New York Times   May 15, 2012

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