Health Check: New method of tackling Alzheimer's disease
There’s a possible new way to attack Alzheimer's disease.
“I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time,” said Dr. Stephen Salloway, who is the director of the Memory and Aging Program at Butler Hospital. "This opens up a whole new era in Alzheimer's treatment."
Robert Brouillette, 70, of Narragansett, is part of that new era.
Until now, treatments targeted the buildup of a protein in the brain believed to play a role in Alzheimer's, which is known as amyloid
"We're still targeting amyloid,” said Salloway. “But now we have another important part of Alzheimer's disease that we can try to change and modify to slow down the memory loss."
Salloway said there are tangles in the brain.
"They’re made up of Tau protein and that's what this treatment will attack,” he said, adding that over time the buildup of the Tau protein causes nerve cells to get smaller and the brain to shrink, causing memory loss.
"I would get in to a sentence and then go totally blank,” said Brouillette.
"He didn't remember visits of his daughter," said his wife, Susan.
That’s why Brouillette is taking part in a novel anti-Tau trial known as Tauriel. This, in hopes of lowering that protein.
Now that they can actually measure that through pet scan imaging, they're hoping to prove is that memory and daily functioning is better.
“And another important thing is, are we changing Tau in the brain and does it correlate with better memory?” Salloway SAID.
Two out of every three participants will get the actual drug. No one, including researchers and participants, know who's getting what.
But the odds are in Salloway's favor.
"I think it's to everyone's benefit to participate in something like this,” said Brouillette, who is retired from the medical field, as he was in nuclear medicine -- a caregiver -- at various hospitals throughout New England.
"He's very functional now,” said his bride of 22 years, who admits this is a scary disease. "If he stays like this because of the drugs, it'll be great.”
This trial is recruiting people between the ages of 50 and 80 with mild cognitive impairment.
But remember -- there are two proteins and separate research for each. Salloway said the hope is to eventually have a combined treatment that attacks both.
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