Studies raise hope in treatment of Alzheimer's disease

Research subjects needed for possible preventive treament

MIAMI - For the past few years, Ana Garazi has watched her mother vanish into the recesses of Alzheimer's disease.

"We pretty much had a mom who very quickly, within a year, dropped from being like you and I to being like a chair," said Garazi.

In her search for ways to help her mother, Garazi came across a series of research trials underway at Jewish Health Systems Memory Center.

"We've been conducting a number of clinical trials focusing on stopping this disease in it's tracks," said Dr. Marc Agronin, Medical Director of Mental Health and Clinical Research at MJHS.

Agronin said clinical trials are focusing on finding medications that can break up a toxic protein in the brain called amyloid, which researchers believe is the central cause of the disease.

"The studies focus on priming the immune system either by using an infusion of antibodies or by using an actual vaccine to try to stop this protein build up which, hopefully, will stop the disease itself," Agronin said.

Preliminary data suggests researchers are moving in the right direction.

"We're seeing the pieces fall into place. The key will be can we really signficantly affect the course of the disease," said Agronin.

There is also hope coming from clinical trials into a nutritional cocktail that appears to improve memory in patients with early stage disease.

"This was developed by a researcher at MIT who created a mixture with choline, uridine and DHA, an omega 3 fatty acid.  They did see some improvement in cognitive performance in memory and also on an EEG," said Cleveland Clinic Florida Neurologist Dr. Po-Heng Tsai.  "The cocktail appears to help develop new connections between brain cells but we need larger and longer studies to see the full potential benefit."

Since enrolling her mother in the vaccine trial at MJHS, Garazi said she's seen a marked improvement in her mother's mental skills.

"Any progress you get with somebody you no longer have is great," she said.

For more information on participating in the research trials underway at the Memory Center at Miami Jewish Health Systems call: 305-514-8710.

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