Arizona Biosciences News
Arizona team receives $6.6 mil grant for Alzheimer's study
A team of Arizona researchers has won a $6.6 million federal grant to continue a long-term study of the brains of patients who face varying genetic risks for developing Alzheimer's disease. The study, led by Eric Reiman of Banner Alzheimer's Institute and Richard Caselli of Mayo Clinic, involves scientists from five of the seven member institutions of the Arizona Alzheimer's Consortium, a statewide research group.
A team of Arizona researchers, led by Eric Reiman, executive director of Banner Alzheimer's Institute, and Richard Caselli, chair of Mayo Clinic's neurology department, has won a $6.6 million federal grant to continue a long-term study of the brains of patients who face varying genetic risks for developing Alzheimer's disease.
The new grant, from the National Institute on Aging (NIA), will expand the study group to around 200 patients from the current 160. Investigators will use Positron Emission Tomography (PET) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans to track the changes in cognitive function of patients who carry two copies, one copy, or no copies of the gene APOE4, which typically increases susceptibility to Alzheimer's disease.
Previous results from the study have shown that PET and MRI scans can detect declines in brain activity and brain size in patients with the APOE4 gene who do not yet show memory loss or problems thinking. The study will now examine the extent to which detected brain changes can predict the onset of such problems and the onset of Alzheimer's disease itself. It will also track the onset of amyloid plaques, protein deposits signifying that a patient is developing Alzheimer's.
"We want to detect early brain changes in relation to different levels of risk for Alzheimer's," said Dr. Reiman, in the Arizona Republic. "We believe the data and findings will become increasingly important over time."
One goal for the study is to develop means to discern more quickly the effectiveness of Alzheimer's therapies. Traditional assessment of an experimental therapy requires many years of waiting to see whether patients receiving the therapy develop Alzheimer's disease as quickly as patients receiving a placebo. Brain scans of patients might reveal the affects of an experimental therapy much sooner.
Dr. Reiman and Dr. Caselli initiated the study 15 years ago, with Dr. Reiman overseeing those research components involving brain imaging and Dr. Caselli managing the assessment of memory and thinking difficulties that patients develop. Also contributing to the current study are scientists from Arizona State University, the University of Arizona, and the Translational Genomics Research Institute.
"We believe our collaboration in this research serves the people of Arizona, who have a vital interest in seeing progress made in the fight against Alzheimer's disease," Dr. Caselli said.
Most of the new patients to be added to the study under the new grant will come from the Latino community, which will allow researchers to expand investigation of possible differences in risk for development of Alzheimer's among ethnic groups. Historically, the Latino population has been understudied in Alzheimer's research.
The study is one of the key projects in the research portfolio of the Arizona Alzheimer's Consortium (AAC), a statewide group dedicated to finding effective treatments for the disease. The AAC receives a $1 million annual appropriation from the state of Arizona and $1.1 million in matching funds from its seven member institutions: ASU, Barrow Neurological Institute, Mayo, Sun Health Research Institute, TGen, UA, and Banner Alzheimer's Institute. Since its founding in 1998, AAC researchers have won some $75 million in grants.
Along with its research activities, the AAC also sponsors a range of community-education programs. Its annual conference Friday in Glendale drew 900 researchers, caregivers, patients, and family members for a day of presentations designed for the general public and scientific talks reporting on Alzheimer's studies.
For more information:
"Alzheimer's conference draws massive crowd," Daily News Sun, 05/31/2008
"Experts get $6.6 mil for Alzheimer's work," Arizona Republic, 04/22/2008