Alzheimer's study seeks to prevent effects of disease

Thursday, March 3, 2016
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It is a long study, but doctors say the impact - delaying or preventing Alzheimer's - could be monumental.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- When most are thinking about retirement, Elizabeth Mosher says she was searching for a new adventure. She became a foreign service officer when she was 55 and, with her husband, traveled the globe.

"Twenty-five countries in 10 years. It was wonderful. I highly recommend it," said Mosher.

Now at age 69, she's embarking on another adventure, hoping to help prevent Alzheimer's disease in the future.

Complications from the illness claimed the lives of her Uncle Nicolas and Aunt Catharine. Mosher enrolled in a new study at Drexel Neurosciences Institute in their memory.

Lead researcher Dr. Carol Lippa explains the study called the Anti-Amyloid Treatment in Asymptomatic Alzheimer's - or A-4 study - uses an investigational drug.

"It's a plaque buster, if you will. It removes the plaque," said Dr. Lippa.

That plaque is called amyloid plaque. If someone has it, they're at a greater risk for Alzheimer's. But typically symptoms, such as memory loss or confusion, won't appear until 10 years after the plaque forms.

The study will look to see if clearing the plaque in people without symptoms can prevent the disease.

"Let's clear them out during the 10 years when they're damaging the brain cells, and see if we can keep the brain cells from getting dysfunctional or destroyed and keep those thinking circuits going," said Dr. Lippa.

Study participants are first given a PET scan to look for amyloid plaques.

If they're present, then they'll be given an infusion of the plaque buster once a month for three years. Those without will also be followed.

It is a long study, but doctors say the impact - delaying or preventing Alzheimer's - could be monumental.

"Oh, it would be amazing. It would be amazing," said Dr. Lippa.

"Today if I told you, you had risk factors you're just going to worry, there's not a lot you can do," said Dr. Erol Veznedaroglu. Drexel Neurosciences Institute. "This is something we can try to reduce or eliminate your risk of getting Alzheimer's."

"I think that's one of the scariest things about Alzheimer's right now is that there's no cure so hopefully this is a little step towards that," said Mosher.

There are 60 medical centers around the world doing the study, including Drexel and Penn Medicine.

They are still enrolling. They're looking for healthy people between the ages 65-85. They're especially looking for minorities to join.

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