for Our Daily News Updates
The University of Kentucky’s Sanders-Brown Center on Aging is participating in a landmark multicenter clinical trial of an experimental drug that has the potential to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
The A4 Study will recruit 1,000 participants ages 65-85 to test an amyloid antibody that may prevent memory loss caused by Alzheimer’s disease. Amyloid is a protein normally produced in the brain that can build up in older people, forming plaque deposits in the brain. Scientists believe this buildup of deposits may play a key role in the eventual development of Alzheimer’s.
Sanders-Brown is the only center in Kentucky and the only center within 200 miles of Lexington participating in the study.
Dr. Gregory Jicha of the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging is enthusiastic about the impact this study might have for the 35 million people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease worldwide.
“As the baby boomer generation ages, the incidence of Alzheimer’s and other age-related dementias will grow exponentially,” Dr. Jicha says. “As of today, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, so any opportunity to slow the progression of symptoms by intervening early in the disease process is important.”
Since previous studies have demonstrated that changes in the brain occur many years before a person shows the signs of Alzheimer’s disease-related dementia, researchers have targeted the amyloid plaques that accumulate in the aging brain as a means of identifying people at risk for developing AD and intervening before the onset of the earliest signs of memory loss.
A4 participant candidates will undergo a series of tests to determine their eligibility, including an imaging test called a PET scan to determine whether they do in fact have evidence of amyloid plaque buildup. This in itself is an interesting conundrum, said Jicha.
“Amyloid plaques don’t guarantee that a person will develop Alzheimer’s, but there seems to be a strong link between the two,” said Jicha. “So using PET imaging to determine the buildup of amyloid plaques is similar to being tested for the BRCA1 gene for breast cancer: they help us determine who is at a higher risk for developing the disease in question.”
Therefore, explains Jicha, patients who are identified by PET scan as at risk for Alzheimer’s disease but aren’t yet experiencing memory problems will now be able to explore their options for prevention and/or treatment.
Jicha notes that the A4 study is just one of many Alzheimer’s-related clinical trials being conducted at the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging.
“We have clinical trials that target the entire continuum for Alzheimer’s disease, from prevention to treatment,” Jicha said. “But we’ll never be able to answer the crucial question: ‘Does this work?’ If we can’t enroll enough people for the research.”
The University of Kentucky’s Sanders-Brown Center on Aging was established in 1979 and is one of the original 10 National Institutes of Health-funded Alzheimer’s disease research centers.
For more information on participation in the clinical trials under way at the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, contact Sarah Tarrant at 859-323-1331.
You might also be interested in reading Ginger Sanders’ Alzheimer’s Diary on KyForward.