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Pitt Joins NIH-Supported Study to Find Earliest Changes in the Brain That May Lead to Alzheimer’s Disease

PITTSBURGH, Aug. 6, 2010 – Volunteers in the Pittsburgh area are being sought for a clinical study examining the subtle changes that may take place in the brains of older people many years before overt symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease appear. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC) are specifically looking for people with the very earliest complaints of memory problems that affect their daily activities. The study will follow participants over time, using imaging techniques specifically developed to advance research into changes taking place in the structure and function of the living brain, as well as biomarker measures found in blood and cerebrospinal fluid.

More than 5.3 million people across the U.S. have Alzheimer’s disease, and every 70 seconds, another person develops this devastating disease. In Pennsylvania alone, approximately 280,000 people aged 65 and older currently are living with Alzheimer’s disease, making finding a cure a pressing need in local communities.

“We cannot end this terrible disease unless we know more about it,” said Oscar Lopez, M.D., principal investigator, professor of neurology at the University of Pittsburgh, and director of the ADRC. “This is where amazing volunteers, their friends and their families can make the difference in our success.”

The National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the NIH Office of the Director are funding the $24 million, two-year Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative Grand Opportunity (ADNI-GO) study. Researchers seek to recruit local volunteers between the ages of 55 and 90 who may be transitioning from normal cognitive aging to an early stage of amnestic mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a condition that may progress to Alzheimer’s disease, but are otherwise healthy. In addition to the ADRC, there are 49 other sites across the United States participating in the study.

The grant expands the efforts of the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), a research partnership supported primarily by the NIA with private-sector support through the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health. ADNI began in 2004 to establish neuroimaging and biomarker measures to track the changes taking place in the brains of 800 older people either free of symptoms or diagnosed with late-stage MCI and early Alzheimer’s disease.

The new ADNI-GO effort enables researchers to continue studying nearly 500 of the original ADNI volunteers, including those in Pittsburgh while expanding the study to include the new participants with early amnestic MCI. Newly enrolled participants and some original study volunteers will undergo imaging studies and a lumbar puncture to collect cerebrospinal fluids.

To volunteer or learn more about the study, contact MaryAnn Oakley at the ARDC by calling (412) 692-2721 or by emailing oakleym@upmc.edu. Volunteers must speak English and have a person willing to assist them during at least five clinic visits and with telephone contacts from researchers.

To learn more, visit the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative Grand Opportunity study online and follow Alzheimer's Disease Research on Facebook.

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