Clinical trials target early onset Alzheimer's

For most patients with Alzheimer's disease, symptoms begin to appear when a person is in his or her sixties or seventies. But, a small percentage of people begin to show signs in their fifties, forties, and even thirties. Researchers in Pittsburgh are among those studying new therapies that may slow progression in these younger patients.
 
Marty Reiswig is a husband, a father of two, and a realtor. He believes in making the very best of every day, for good reason… 
"At 38, I know I may only have another 12 years of good mental capacity," Marty said.
 
He came face-to-face with his family's genetic fate more than a decade ago. At one reunion,  very few relatives were over 60.  He and Jaclyn had just started dating.
 
"He saw an uncle who was clearly having problems. That's when it became clear to him. He took me for a walk and said if you want out now, I understand," Jaclyn explained.
 
"Without hesitation, she said, 'I'd rather have 30 good years with you, than a lifetime with anybody else'," continued Marty.
 
Eric McDade, DO is a Neurologist and Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurology at Washington University at St. Louis School of Medicine, studying the familial early onset of Alzheimer's. It is known as the Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer Network Trials Unit; or DIAN-TU. Researchers are focused on defects in three genes.
 
"These genetic changes are actually passed in a way that each generation from somebody who has the gene, has a 50-50 chance of getting the gene defect," Dr. McDade explained.
 
People who inherit the defective gene almost always develop Alzheimer's at a young age. Marty's father developed symptoms at  52. As part of the study, Marty had genetic testing. For now, he and Jaclyn have opted not to know the results.
 
Marty explained, "The burden of finding out that I do have the gene would be far worse and heavy and difficult than not knowing." 
 
The current trials are using drugs that attack different forms of the amyloid protein, associated with Alzheimer's.
 
"My hope for this study is that it gives us an opportunity to live and enjoy life just five or ten more years," Marty stated.
 
He said although he does not know if he carries the genetic defect, he is proactive about what he can do to delay the potential onset. Marty and his brother are both enrolled in the DIAN-TU trials.
 
Researchers at sites in the U.S., Canada, Australia and Europe will be enrolling participants in a third arm of the trial, which will test a daily oral medication.  The closest study site to our region is at the University of Pittsburgh.
 

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