News Briefs: New funding in battle to fight Alzheimer’s

The National Institute on Aging (NIA) awarded a $54 million grant to the Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study, a national consortium of 83 medical research centers and clinics throughout the United States and Canada.

The group, coordinated by the University of California, San Diego will use the funds to develop enhanced diagnostic tools and to test a variety of drugs that may slow the progression of the disease or even prevent it altogether. Among the studies to be conducted over the course of the five-year grant are:

• An ongoing prevention trial to determine whether vitamin E and donepezil (an agent that slows the breakdown of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine) may keep patients with mild cognitive impairment from converting to Alzheimer’s.

• A study to determine the role cholesterol may play in the development of the disease and whether taking a cholesterol-lowering statin drug may slow the progression of the clinical signs of Alzheimer’s.

• An 18-month clinical trial to examine the effects of high-dose folate/B6/B12 supplements on the cognitive decline of people who have already developed the disease.

• A 2-year study that will look at whether low doses of valproate, an anti-psychotic drug, can delay the emergence of agitation and psychosis in patients in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s.

• A study of the safety and tolerability of Indole-3-Propionic Acid, a highly potent, naturally occurring anti-oxidant that has been shown to interfere with the action of enzymes contributing to amyloid plaque formation, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s.

• An ongoing project to develop and improve measures for evaluating the clinical effectiveness of drugs used and tested in the prevention or treatment of Alzheimer’s.