Local Alzheimer’s studies include a different approach

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FAIRWAY, Kan. -- There's no proven way to prevent, slow or cure Alzheimer's disease, and there hasn't been a single new drug approved for the disease in a dozen years. But a lot of research is going on in the Kansas City Metro and elsewhere. That includes a study that takes a different approach.

Mason McIntire and his wife, Judy, are on a journey no one chooses. The Mound City, Missouri, man was diagnosed with Alzheimer's five years ago at age 65.

"I'll forget from here over to there and then remember it sometime over here," McIntire said.

He is taking part in a study at the K.U. Clinical Research Center of a drug aimed at the amyloid plaques that build up in the brains of Alzheimer's patients. Dr. Jeffrey Burns says one hypothesis is that those plaques cause Alzheimer's.

" Multiple studies we have are going after pulling the plaques out to try to preserve these neurons," Dr. Burns said as he pointed to an image.

But that hasn't been successful so far although studies continue. So researchers are also taking a different approach.

"Instead of pulling amyloid out of the brain, we're trying to protect the cells from whatever causes Alzheimer's Disease," the neurologist said.

They're trying to protect the nerve cells or neurons. In Alzheimer's, those cells are attacked and die, resulting in the loss of memory and thinking.

A pill for people with mild to moderate disease is being tested at the research center in Fairway. Dr. Burns says the question to be answered in the study is whether boosting the metabolism of the cells can offer protection against the disease.

This and other Alzheimer's studies need participants.

"Volunteers who are willing to join us in the fight," said Dr. Burns.

That means people like McIntire.

"It's good we're getting in to try to solve some of this because we're far not the only ones," he said.

For information on Alzheimer's Disease studies, click here or call 913-588-0555