Ted was diagnosed with early-onset familial Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 44. He lost his mother and four other family members to the disease, now Ted and his uncle are living with it.
“It’s scary, just scary, I didn’t know what was going to happen,” Ted told Global News about his diagnosis in 2008.
In a first-of-its kind study, Canadian researchers are joining an international team testing antibody drugs hoping to slow or stop the development of Alzheimer’s disease, in those genetically destined to develop the illness.
Autosomal dominant Alzheimer’s disease (ADAD) is genetically inherited or passed down. If a parent has the genetic mutation, a child has a 50 per cent chance of carrying the gene.
With early-onset some people experience symptoms as early as their 30s and 40s – changes in mood and memory. It varies, but on average the course of Alzheimer’s disease from diagnosis to time of death is about 10 years, according to physicians.
That is why Ted and his wife Joanne have travelled to Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto to participate in the study.
“For my kids, and hopefully a cure,” said Ted.
According to his wife Joanne, Ted’s first thought after his diagnosis was of their children and how to help others.
“It’s exciting that they are doing a trial for this very rare form, which hopefully then will lead to something for age (late) onset Alzheimer’s…we are just hoping for great results” said Joanne.
The majority of Alzheimer’s cases are late-onset, ADAD makes up less than one per cent of all cases. What is key – is early-onset Alzheimer’s may hold important clues.
The Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer Network Trials Unit (DIAN-TU) drug trial is testing two medications in patients and a placebo. Ted and other patients will receive treatment every month for four years.
“We want to stop this disease in its tracks, before symptoms begin to emerge, or when in the very early stages,” said Dr. Mario Masellis, neurologist and lead investigator of the trial at Sunnybrook.
Researchers are focusing on tackling a “protein problem,” a build-up of a sticky plague in the brain, due to a protein called amyloid and another called tau.
“If we can try to prevent the amyloid from accumulating in the brain then we hopefully can at least slow down or halt the process of the further development of Alzheimer’s in these families,” Masellis told Global News.
Although this study is focused on the genetic forms of the disease, there is hope that clues discovered in this study could help treat or even prevent all Alzheimer’s one day.
“This is where the whole field is moving. Trying to tackle Alzheimer’s disease before it begins, or in the very, very, early stage so the genetic forms of the disease serves as an opportunity,” Masellis told Global News, “to see if we can develop treatments.”
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