While science has not yet been able to uncover the cause of Alzheimer’s disease, some younger-onset forms of the disease seem to have a genetic connection. The Alzheimer’s Association has awarded $4.3 million to expand a clinical trial unit that will dive deep into the workings of younger-onset Alzheimer’s and hopes to learn more about how to treat the brain plaque build up associated with it.
The award will help fund the next phase of the Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer's Network Trials Unit known as DIAN-TU Next Generation (DIAN-TU NexGen), led by researchers at St. Louis’ Washington University. The trial seeks to discover new ways to diagnose younger-onset Alzheimer’s and to test new drug therapies that could delay the disease progress, and study participants will include those who carry a gene mutation believed to be associated with younger-onset dementia.
“Having a treatment that can delay the onset of Alzheimer's is projected to reduce the number of individuals affected by the disease by 2.5 million within the first five years it is available,” said Maria Carrillo, PhD, Alzheimer’s Association Chief Science Officer, in an association release.
Part of the research will examine whether positron emission tomography (PET) scans are valuable in being able to determine exactly when brain cells begin to die. The research also will explore whether frequent and early cognitive testing, including home-based testing long before a diagnosis is made, might help physicians detect signs of brain function decline earlier.
The DIAN-TU NexGen project has 26 global research sites already, and will be adding more.