News

Find updates on the work of our researchers here, as well as news about recent advances in Alzheimer's science, funding and awareness.

The Search for New Ways to Treat Alzheimer's Disease

By John R. Cirrito, Ph.D., and David M. Holtzman, M.D.
Microdialysis Core Facility, Department of Neurology, Hope Center for Neurological Diseases, Washington University, St. Louis, MO

A major contributing factor in Alzheimer’s disease is the elevation of a protein called amyloid-β, or Aβ. Since high levels of Aβ play a role in the disease, many research groups around the world are developing therapies designed to lower the levels of this protein. With the help of Cure Alzheimer’s Fund, our group initiated an ambitious project to discover new drugs that reduce Aβ levels. Our approach is to test drugs in living animals (mice). While this process is time-consuming, it enables us to discover entirely new classes of compounds that traditional drug screening methods typically might overlook.

Alzheimer's Genome Project Pre-publication Summary

Background

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia in the elderly and a burgeoning unmet medical need that will only worsen as the average lifespan continues to increase. The prevalence of AD increases with every decade after the age of 60 and ~ 20% of the population can expect to get this devastating disease in their lifetime given the current average lifespan of  ~78 years. AD is strongly influenced by inherited factors. In fact, after age, the greatest risk factor for AD is family history. Studies of several thousand pairs of twins have revealed that at least 80% of Alzheimer’s disease involves the inheritance of risk-conferring gene defects—either gene mutations that directly cause the disease, or gene variants that increase susceptibility. To date, we know the identity of four AD genes. Over the last two decades, studies of these four genes, and particularly the three early-onset AD genes co-discovered by Cure Alzheimer’s Fund Research Consortium Chairperson, Dr. Rudy Tanzi, have guided virtually all laboratory research aimed at understanding AD and developing novel therapeutics. As invaluable as the known AD genes have been to solving the mystery of AD and guiding new therapeutic interventions, these four genes account for only 30% of the inheritance of Alzheimer’s disease. While the three early onset AD genes (APP,PSEN1, and PSEN2) account for roughly half of familial early-onset AD, for the most common late-onset (>60 years) form of AD, only one gene has thus far been established to increase susceptibility. This gene is known as the apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene. Since the discovery of the association between AD risk and the E4 variant of the APOE gene, increasing evidence indicates that this variant is neither sufficient nor necessary to cause the disease. We know that APOE works together with other genes to influence one’s inherited risk for AD. To date, the identity of the additional AD genes, which account for 70% of the genetic basis of AD, has remained unknown.

The Cure Alzheimer's Fund National Alzheimer's Disease Research Strategy

Prepared by:

Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D.
Chairperson, Cure Alzheimer’s Fund Research Consortium
Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology
Harvard Medical School,
Director, Genetics and Aging Research Unit,
MassGeneral Institute for Neurodegenerative Disease
Department of Neurology
Massachusetts General Hospital
114 16th Street
Charletown, MA 02129
Tanzi@helix.mgh.harvard.edu

Timothy W. Armour
President and CEO
Cure Alzheimer’s Fund
34 Washington Street Suite 300
Wellesly Hills, MA 02481
Tarmour@curealz.org

The overarching goal of a national AD research strategy is to reach a cure most efficiently by accelerating studies aimed at identifying and characterizing all of the genes that influence susceptibility to AD, placing highest priority on those that will most readily lead to effective therapeutics for the treatment and prevention of AD.

Over the next decade, the influx of roughly 50 billion dollars into AD research should allow us by 2020 to identify all of the genes involved in AD susceptibility, and to arrive at a cure based largely on prevention.

Research Papers Supported By Cure Alzheimer's Fund

This is a list of papers funded by Cure Alzheimer's Fund. It also includes “layperson” descriptions of each paper. We are grateful to the researchers for translating the work of their papers into language more accessible to most of us than the more precise technical language useful to them and their peers.

We thank all the researchers and lab personnel for their dedication and commitment to the common mission of ending this disease, and we congratulate all of them for the important work reflected in these papers.

We also are grateful to all of those who literally made this work possible. Without those of you who have supported Cure Alzheimer’s Fund projects through your generosity, these papers and the forward momentum they represent would not exist.

 

Major Findings Linking New Genes to Alzheimer's Disease Announced in Publication of Four Papers

Four papers published this fall in leading science journals refer to the identification of new genes that confer risk for, or protection against, Alzheimer’s disease.

 

Lifetime Achievement Awards in Alzheimer's Disease Research Given to Cure Alzheimer's Fund Research Consortium Member Virginia Lee

Virginia Lee

Khalid Iqbal, PhD was one of the founders of the International Conference for Alzheimer’s Disease in 1988. A Lifetime Achievement Awards named in his honor is given to an outstanding scientist who has dedicated his/her career to helping millions around the world through research. The Khalid Iqbal Lifetime Achievement Award was awarded to Cure Alzheimer's Fund Research Consortium member and funded researchers Virginia M.-Y. Lee. Dr. Lee is director of Penn’s Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research. Dr. Lee's research focus includes determining the genesis and roles of various normal and abnormal brain proteins (amyloid, tau, etc.) thought to be the keys to the cause and progression of numerous brain diseases, including Alzheimer's.

Nova Science Now Story about Genetics on PBS

Thousands of people are signing up to post their DNA sequences on the Internet, for all to see. Are they crazy?

A follow-up piece on an earlier Nova story on genetics aired Tuesday on Nova Now on PBS. Cure Alzheimer's Fund Research Consortium Chairman, Rudy Tanzi, appears briefly and voices his opinion that stronger legal and ethical safeguards need to be in place with genetic testing.

Alzheimer’s and Traumatic Brain Injury?

Giuseppina Tesco

Yes, there is a connection. Researchers have demonstrated that when Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) or stroke occurs, there is a sudden surge in the production of the A-Beta 42 peptide (“peptide” = “small protein”) which is consistently acknowledged as a key player in Alzheimer’s disease pathology. Exactly how TBI/stroke lead to increased susceptibility to Alzheimer’s disease is unclear at this point, but well worth immediate and intense research. The implications are obvious and ominous for combat soldiers, athletes and all of us who may suffer from TBI or stroke in the future. We need this research not only to break the link between TBI/stroke and Alzheimer’s, but also to understand better the origins of Alzheimer’s itself.

Dr. Giuseppina Tesco, now with the Department of Neuroscience at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, has done pioneering work in this area at Massachusetts General Hospital, where her laboratory was part of the Genetics and Aging Unit. After her initial paper on the topic in the journal Neuron in 2007, Cure Alzheimer’s Fund supported her continued pilot studies leading to her recent award of 2(!) RO1 grants from the National Institutes of Health for major studies in this field.

We congratulate Giuseppina on this important work and wish her and her colleagues success in helping to break this insidious link and learn more about how to stop Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s and Traumatic Brain Injury?

Dr. Giuseppina Tesco Conducts Research on Traumatic Brain Injury and Alzheimer's Yes, there is a connection. Researchers have demonstrated that when Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) or stroke occurs, there is a sudden surge in the production of the A-Beta 42 peptide (“peptide” = “small protein”) which is consistently acknowledged as a key player in Alzheimer’s disease pathology. Exactly how TBI/stroke lead to increased susceptibility to Alzheimer’s disease is unclear at this point, but well worth immediate and intense research. The implications are obvious and ominous for combat soldiers, athletes and all of us who may suffer from TBI or stroke in the future. We need this research not only to break the link between TBI/stroke and Alzheimer’s, but also to understand better the origins of Alzheimer’s itself.

Dr. Giuseppina Tesco, now with the Department of Neuroscience at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, has done pioneering work in this area at Massachusetts General Hospital, where her laboratory was part of the Genetics and Aging Unit. After her initial paper on the topic in the journal Neuron in 2007, Cure Alzheimer’s Fund supported her continued pilot studies leading to her recent award of 2(!) RO1 grants from the National Institutes of Health for major studies in this field.

We congratulate Giuseppina on this important work and wish her and her colleagues success in helping to break this insidious link and learn more about how to stop Alzheimer’s disease.

Message from the Intern: Even with just a few minutes, you can help

As I grow older, it has become increasingly obvious that the infamous New York City pace of life no longer applies exclusively to New York City – it is everywhere. Kids, parents, and grandparents alike are swamped with time commitments; be it work, time with family and friends, or other activities. This non-stop pace often makes it hard to find time for the things we find important, so we are forced to either complete time-consuming tasks in shorter periods of time, or not at all. For example, many people who are not involved with charity work cite lack of time as an inhibiting factor. The problem is not that there are no quick ways to help out a non-profit like Cure Alzheimer’s Fund, but that people either don’t know or can’t think of them. We know that you are extremely busy, so here are some ideas of how you can help out: If you only have a few minutes…

  • Tell a friend about Alzheimer’s disease research, and recommend a good resource where he/she can find more information about it
  • Sign up for the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund email list to stay up-to-date on breakthrough research. You can sign up by visiting our homepage
  • Write about Alzheimer’s disease on your Facebook or Twitter accounts, or record a quick video about it on YouTube. Check out our accounts on these sites as well.
  • Make a donation to the cause

If you have some spare time…

  • Write a letter to the editor of your local paper, talking about Alzheimer’s disease and why you’re passionate about curing it
  • Write about Alzheimer’s disease on your blog or website and let us know so we can link to it!
  • Next time you throw a party, invite people to donate to Cure Alzheimer’s Fund in lieu of traditional gifts
  • Call or email us and share your story. You can reach us at (781) 237-3800

If you have the time to make a longer term commitment…

  • Participate in a walk, marathon, or triathlon and ask your friends and family to sponsor you. Donate the money to Alzheimer’s research
  • Organize a car wash, bake sale, raffle, or read-a-thon to raise money for the cause
  • Check to see if your employer has a workplace giving program, whereby they deduct a certain amount of money from your paycheck each month for Cure Alzheimer’s Fund