Alzheimer's disease research has progressed significantly in two decades, and KU Alzheimer's Disease Center directors Russell Swerdlow, M.D., and Jeffrey Burns, M.D., feel a major breakthrough is on the brink.
Unique research: KU Alzheimer's Disease scientists have received international attention for research on how various lifestyle factors, including fitness and physical activity, affect normal aging and Alzheimer's disease. | Read more here.
National designation: This research is unique in the field and contributed to the NIH's decision to award KU national designation, making KU Medical Center one of only 29 national Alzheimer's Disease Centers. | Read more here.
On the map: Burns has helped put KU Medical Center on the map as a site for national studies of Alzheimer's Disease. Burns received national attention recently for a study that found links between body weight and Alzheimer's. | Read more about Dr. Burns here.
Proteins and tangles: Recent findings show that the brains of people with Alzheimer's are riddled with plaques made of a protein called beta-amyloid and tangles of another called tau. Among researchers, that much is agreed upon, but whether the plaques and tangles are a cause or a consequence of the disease is still up for debate.
"You may have plaques in your brain, but that doesn't necessarily mean you have Alzheimer's disease. It merely indicates that your brain is aging."
-- Russell Swerdlow
Brain function: Swerdlow believes that clearing the amyloid and tau proteins from patients' brains won't ultimately cure the disease. He and his research group are working to understand how brain energy metabolism differs between younger and older brains. Someday, Swerdlow hopes to learn how to manipulate brain metabolism to help older brains regain function. | Read more about Dr. Swerdlow here
Weight and Alzheimer's: Burns and ADC scientist Eric Vidoni found that overweight or obese middle-age people have a greater risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, but that the reverse was true for people over 60, who were more at risk if they had a low BMI. | Read more here.
"In general, we think of Alzheimer's as a brain disease, but this is evidence that there are systemic problems throughout the body in the early stages of Alzheimer's." -- Jeffrey Burns
Maternal link: Another study, by Dr. Robyn Honea, found that a maternal link to Alzheimer's disease. The study indicated that a person has a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease if the person's mother had the disease compared to those without a family history or whose father had the disease. | Read more here.
"The goal is to do a scan on someone before they get the disease and be able to tell if they're at higher risk or starting to deteriorate." -- Robyn Honea