The Memory and Aging Program at Butler Hospital in Providence, RI, is the only site in Rhode Island testing the newest amyloid vaccine that researchers hope will slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). And today, June 23, 2005, the first person in the state is receiving that vaccine.
Amyloid is a protein deposited in the brain and is suspected of playing a major role in AD. A thick gummy substance, amyloid may disrupt normal communications between the brains neurons by literally clogging things up. It is hoped that the new, investigational drug being tested today will attach to the amyloid protein in the subject’s brain and allow it to be removed from the body.
According to Stephen Salloway, MD, Director of the Memory and Aging Program, the progress in the fight against AD and related memory disorders are incremental but momentum is building for the development of more effective treatments. That would be welcome news to the millions of families across the country struggling with an illness that robs people of their ability to think, reason, remember, and to carry out simple tasks like reading, writing, or cooking.
A type of dementia, AD is a progressive, degenerative disease that causes a slow decline of nerve cells in the brain. Scientists think that as many as 4.5 million Americans suffer from AD. The disease usually begins after age 60, and risk goes up with age. About 5 percent of men and women ages 65 to 74 have AD, and nearly half of those age 85 and older may have it. As the baby boom generation ages, AD is expected to become a major health problem over the next 25 years.
“This vaccine study is closely aligned with our program’s mission of developing new treatments that improve the quality of life for patients and families dealing with memory loss and dementia,” said Dr. Salloway. “Our program has conducted dozens of clinical trials since it was founded in 1997. Hundreds of area residents have volunteered for the trials testing new treatments for AD, mild memory loss and memory loss due to stroke.”