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April 24, 2016

Drexel seeks healthy participants for landmark Alzheimer's drug study

Research will study effects of investigational drug in reducing amyloid plaque formations

Researchers at the Drexel Neurosciences Institute have embarked on a potentially groundbreaking Alzheimer's study that will examine healthy subjects for signs of a plaque formation commonly associated with the progression of the degenerative disease.

The Anti-Amyloid in Asymptomatic Alzheimer's Disease Study (A4) will specifically investigate whether the investigational drug solanezumab shows effectiveness in reducing plaque formation caused by a buildup of the protein amyloid, which disrupts metabolic processes and clogs the spaces between the brain's nerve cells.

"This is truly an exciting and hopeful study. To find a way to prevent or delay Alzheimer's disease would have profound implications for patients and their families as well as for our nation," said Erol Veznedaroglu, MD, director of the Drexel Neurosciences Institute (DNI) and chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery at Drexel University College of Medicine.

Principal investigator Carol F. Lippa said the study is focused on healthy patients because amyloid plaques can build up for decades before there are any signs of memory loss or cognitive decline.

"We believe the key – the real hope – is to clear amyloid plaques before they contribute to the destruction of brain cells in the thinking areas of the brain," Lippa said. "Clearing out the amyloid is like clearing out the kindling before the fire starts. We are hopeful we can prevent Alzheimer's and the enormous suffering that surrounds this disease."

Researchers cite federal statistics showing that five million Americans are currently diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. That number is expected to triple by 2050.

The A4 study, an international public-private partnership, is funded by the National Institutes of Health, Eli Lily and Company and multiple philanthropic organizations.

The Drexel Neurosciences Institute, one of 60 research institutions involved in the A4 study, is currently seeking a diverse group of participants between the ages of 65 and 85 years old. All subjects must have normal memory functioning and cognitive ability. Those who participate must be willing to undergo a PET brain scan, which will determine their placement in one of two studies.

"Participants in this study will advance our understanding of Alzheimer's and contribute to the search for a way to prevent the disease," Veznedaroglu said.

Contact information to participate in the A4 study, also carried out by the Penn Memory Center, can be found here. Below, you can watch the PBS NOVA special, "Can Alzheimer's Be Stopped?" which recently featured the A4 study.