McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine faculty member Steven DeKosky, MD (pictured), is the director of the Alzheimer Disease Research Center (ADRC) at the University of Pittsburgh. The ADRC is one of the nation’s leading research centers specializing in the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders and will soon start enrolling patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's for two clinical drug trials. The trials will be critical in validating the theory that beta-amyloid protein is the main culprit behind Alzheimer's.
Inside the brain of an Alzheimer patient, a sticky amyloid protein builds up, destroys nerve cells, and creates tangles. The brain actually shrinks as the disease robs their minds and ultimately their lives. But Alzheimer's patients can slow progression with medications that increase thinking function.
"There's no question these drugs work, but at some point, they would cease to work when the system they're trying to boost no longer has the ability to be boosted," said Dr. DeKosky.
There are new options and new optimism that permanent solutions are within reach. A new brain image test known as the Pittsburgh compound-B or PIB, can now diagnose Alzheimer's 10 years before symptoms and will help with even earlier diagnosis. Dr. DeKosky recently confirmed through a groundbreaking study that PIB binds to the telltale beta-amyloid deposits found in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease. The finding is a significant step toward enabling clinicians to provide a definitive diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease in living patients.
"Give them the drugs then and hope that they never breakthrough and have problems with memory," said Dr. DeKosky.
The ADRC was established in 1985 by a grant from the National Institute on Aging as a mechanism for integrating, coordinating, and supporting research in Alzheimer's disease and aging. The ADRC performs and coordinates AD-related clinical and research activities and is a core source of support (e.g., resources, patients, tissue, expert consultation for research, clinical and training activities) regionally and nationally. Current research foci emphasize neuropsychiatry and neuropsychology, molecular genetics and epidemiology, basic neuroscience, and structural and functional imaging that aid in the diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer's disease.
Dr. DeKosky is also a Professor within the Department of Genetics at the Graduate School of Public Health and the Chairman of the Department of Neurology, both of the University of Pittsburgh.
The Pittsburgh Channel/WTAE (05/15/08)
UPMC/University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences Media Relations (03/26/08)
The University of Pittsburgh Alzheimer's Disease Research Center