Several hundred people in one extended family living in Columbia were born with a genetic flaw that guarantees that they will develop Alzheimer's disease before reaching the age of 50. Members of this family will receive shots of the experimental Alzheimer’s drug Crenezumab. The drug will target what most – but not all – scientists think is the root cause of Alzheimer’s, which is the buildup in the brain of toxic amyloid protein.
Researchers will follow this family to see if the drug works to prevent the buildup of amyloid protein in their brains. If the drug does prevent the buildup of amyloid, and the treated family members don’t develop Alzheimer’s, the drug will be considered a success.
If the people in the family don’t develop the amyloid proteins, but still develop Alzheimer’s, the trial would, in one way, be a failure. However, the “failure” of his clinical trial would then send researchers in other directions, as it will disprove the theory that preventing amyloid protein is the answer to preventing Alzheimer’s.
Researchers feel that important work in the U.S. is being delayed because there are too few volunteers for studies. The National Institutes of Health is encouraging people to look into clinical studies as a way to speed progress in stopping the damage done by this disease. Although the Columbian family is a perfect fit for the research, the researchers would also like to study a U.S. family.
Both of these announcements represent encouraging steps forward in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. Much more funding will be needed for these expensive studies, but with Alzheimer’s carrying a $200 billion price tag in the U.S. this year alone, dollars going toward research are well spent even if the information scientists gain to move this critical fight forward is only modest in scale.
Associated Press (2012, May 15) HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius kicks off first National Alzheimer's Plan. CBS News. Retrieved fromhttp://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-57434748-10391704/hhs-secretary-kathleen-sebelius-kicks-off-first-national-alzheimers-plan/?tag=contentMain;contentBody
Sifferlin, A. (2012, May16) U.S. Launches National Alzheimer’s Plan. Time Healthland. Retrieved from http://healthland.time.com/2012/05/16/u-s-launches-national-alzheimers-plan/#ixzz1v2VH2kPu
Andrews, W. (2012, May15) Groundbreaking $100M study aims to stop Alzheimer's before it starts. CBS News. Retrieved fromhttp://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18563_162-57435037/groundbreaking-$100m-study-aims-to-stop-alzheimers-before-it-starts/?tag=cbsnewsSectionContent.8