Health Beat: A drug to prevent Alzheimer's

Health Beat: A drug to prevent Alzheimer's

MIAMI - Veterinarian James Block has dedicated his life to helping his four-legged patients.
Now, he's going to focus on helping himself and his family.

Block's mother died of Alzheimer's disease and he wants to know if he or his little boy is at risk. That's why he is planning to sign up for a prevention study investigating a new drug that targets a major risk factor for Alzheimer's.

"I would be very willing and eager to participate to see if I have predisposition through genetic influence or evidence of early Alzheimer's, or the lesions," Block said.

This summer, the A4 study will enroll 1,000 people between the ages of 65 and 85 with normal thinking and memory function who have evidence of amyloid plaque buildup in the brain.

Dr. Ranjan Duara, a neurologist at Mount Sinai Medical Center, pointed out the importance of studying the amyloid protein.

"We know that the amyloid starts being deposited in the brain typically at least 15 years before the onset of the disease and as much as 30 years before the onset of the disease," Duara explained. "The greater the amount of amyloid there is the redder the image tends to be."

Volunteers must undergo a PET scan, where they're injected with a special tracer that highlights amyloid in the brain.

The investigational drug, solanezumab, is designed to target and remove amyloid from the brain. The study participants will get a monthly infusion of the drug or a placebo for three years.

Researchers are hoping to learn two things.

"Do we have a way of treating the disease before it starts and secondly is amyloid really the cause of the disease," Daura said.

Finding those answers could change the future for Block and the rest of us.

The Wien Center for Clinical Research is one of more than 50 A4 study sites in the United States. The principal investigators are Dr. Reisa Sperling at Harvard and Dr. Paul Aisen at UCSD. To enroll, call 800-272-3700 to ask about trial match.

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