Alzheimer’s Foundation of America awards $1 million research grant to Feinstein Institutes

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In this Aug. 14, 2019 photo provided by the University of Kentucky, Donna Wilcock, of the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, holds a brain in her lab in Lexington, Ky. She says that contrary to popular perception, “there are a lot of changes that happen in the aging brain that lead to dementia in addition to plaques and tangles.” (Mark Cornelison/University of Kentucky via AP)

NEW YORK —The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America began its twentieth anniversary year by announcing a $998,156 grant to the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research to expand research into developing new treatments aimed at addressing the hallucinations, delusions and aggression that come with dementia.

Psychotic symptoms and aggression are among the most troubling manifestations of dementia-related illnesses. Violent behavior directed towards caregivers is emotionally devastating and can be dangerous for those charged with providing a safe environment. 

AFA Founder and Board Chairman Bert E. Brodsky said, “Finding new ways to treat these symptoms would have an enormous impact on safety and quality of life—both for people living with dementia and their caregivers.”

“A new year brings new beginnings, and we hope that this research will be a new chapter in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease,” said AFA President & CEO Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr. “Just as AFA builds on the progress of its past twenty years, this new funding will help the Feinstein Institutes start the next phase of its research toward new treatments.”

A team of scientists led by Jeremy Koppel, M.D., co-director of the Litwin-Zucker Research Center at the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research, have found an association between the distribution of abnormal tau proteins in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients.

This, together with new PET scan evidence of abnormal tau in brain regions believed to be critical for this faculty led investigators to the hypothesis that tau disrupts networks in regions of the brain necessary for reality testing. Investigators believe that this may result in psychosis and aggression.

“The funding provided by AFA made our work possible; and the ongoing support is critical, allowing us to do the necessary research to translate these discoveries into safe and effective treatments for patients and caregivers,” says Dr. Koppel.

The next five-year phase funded by the new grant will target these symptoms through the development of immune therapies in the form of antibodies that bind to pathogenic tau. Researchers will conduct a study comprised of three types of participants—those with both Alzheimer’s and psychosis, those with Alzheimer’s but without psychosis, and healthy controls between the ages of 65 and 85. Participants will undergo a battery of cognitive and electrophysiologic testing, with levels and location of tau quantified in each group with new tau PET imaging technology. The goal is to identify which areas of the brain correspond to specific symptoms, so that they can be targeted through antibody treatments.

To make a donation to support AFA’s research efforts, visit www.alzfdn.org/donate or call AFA at 866-232-8484.

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