UA Alzheimer's Researchers Fight the Disease and Educate Public

Several UA researchers are contributing to a statewide consortium in the battle against the fatal and progressive brain disease.
May 23, 2008
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Arizona Alzheimer's Consortium

 

For information about memory and memory loss clinical trials at the UA, call 520-621-8792.

Arizona Alzheimer's Consortium
Arizona Alzheimer's Consortium

Researchers from The University of Arizona and others fighting Alzheimer’s disease will gather later this month for a community awareness and scientific forum during the Arizona Alzheimer’s Consortium's annual meeting.

The consortium pulls together the resources and brain power of many Arizona organizations, including the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute, T-Gen, the Mayo Clinic, Sun Health Research Institute, Barrow Neurological Institute and researchers from Arizona State University and the UA. The group's annual meeting is in Glendale on May 30.

The consortium, which has become a national model, works to advance what is known about Alzheimer's while providing resources and information to those affected by the illness.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the disease affects more than 5 million Americans and is not a normal part of aging. It is a fatal and progressive brain disease that destroys brain cells, causing problems with memory, thinking and behavior severe enough to affect work, lifelong hobbies or social life and gets worse over time.

According to the 2008 Alzheimer’s Facts and Figures Report published by the Alzheimer’s Association, the incidence and prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia increase with age. With advances in medicine, technology and social/environmental conditions people are living longer, which likely will mean a future with more people suffering from these conditions. Currently, the disease is the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States.

The Alzheimer’s Association report states that in Arizona in the year 2000, there were a recorded 78,000 Alzheimer's cases. By 2010, researchers predict an expected 97,000 cases.

Thirteen researchers at the UA are part of the consortium. The head of its education core is Alfred Kaszniak, head of the department of psychology, director of clinical neuropsychology and professor in the departments of psychology, neurology and psychiatry at the UA.

“The UA is part of the consortium because of its leadership in research on both normal aging and Alzheimer’s disease. Experts here are working on the evaluation of new drug treatments, on improving early diagnosis through new brain imaging technologies, on understanding the risks factors and improving prevention of depression and stress, and on understanding the basic mechanisms of normal aging and language function,” Kaszniak said.

Researchers at the UA recently took a tremendous step forward, Kaszniak said, with the opening of the Evelyn F. McKnight Memory and Cognitive Assessment Clinic, which will contribute to advancing what is known about memory and memory loss.

The newly established clinic, located at the ground level of the UA Psychology Building, brings UA researchers studying memory loss, patients and community members interested in participating in research studies together under one roof for clinical assessment. Those participating in studies help researchers to understand and build roads in finding a cure for the disease.

At the clinic, researchers will test and document cognitive abilities including memory function, reasoning process, complex task function, judgment, language comprehension, motor skills and overall medical histories.

Researcher Lee Ryan, director of the Cognition and Neuroimaging Laboratories at the UA, believes the future may lie in greater advances in early detection and other prevention therapies. Promising research has been seen in memory loss in animal models for the development of drugs that slow or clear damage caused by illnesses such as Alzheimer’s. Researchers are also investigating in humans the benefits of preventive daily memory/reasoning exercises as well as combinations of drug therapy, exercises and dietary changes or vitamins.