|Study to Examine Early, Inherited Form
NIH Funds International Network in Search of Biological Clues
The adult children of people diagnosed with inherited Alzheimer's
disease are the focus of a new study to better understand the biology
of the disease. Researchers are seeking 300 volunteers with a biological
parent with a known genetic mutation causing rare and typically
early-onset forms of the disorder to join the Dominantly Inherited
Alzheimer's Disease Network (DIAN) study, a six-year, $16 million
study funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of
the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The scientists hope to
identify the sequence of brain changes in early-onset Alzheimer's,
even before symptoms appear, and by understanding this process,
to also gain insight into the more common late-onset form of the
The vast majority of people with Alzheimer's have the late-onset
form of the disease, in which symptoms of memory loss become evident
at age 60 or older. Less than five percent are diagnosed with the
inherited form of the disease, sometimes as early as their 30s
or 40s. Until now, research into inherited early-onset Alzheimer's
was hindered by the rarity of the condition and geographic distances
between patients and research centers. DIAN is designed to overcome
"This collaborative, international effort will link a network
of research sites in the United States, England and Australia to
family members of people with these rare forms of Alzheimer's," said
NIA Director Richard J. Hodes, M.D. "By sharing data within
the network, we hope to advance our knowledge of the brain mechanisms
involved in Alzheimer's, eventually leading to targets for therapies
that can delay or even prevent progress of the disease."
The study is being led by John C. Morris, M.D., director of the
Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at Washington University School
of Medicine in St. Louis. Research collaborators include Massachusetts
General Hospital; Brigham and Women's Hospital; Brown University;
Columbia University; Indiana University; the University of California,
Los Angeles; the University College, London Institute of Neurology
at Queen's Square and a consortium of the Universities of Melbourne
and New South Wales, and Edith Cowan University in Australia.
Each study participant will undergo the same assessments, from
genetic analysis to cognitive testing. Researchers will build a
shared database of blood and cerebral spinal fluid samples and
neuroimages, including MRI and PET amyloid images. These assessments,
samples and images should enable researchers to determine the type
and sequence of changes in the brain in early-onset inherited Alzheimer's.
"While three mutated genes — amyloid precursor
protein (APP), presenilin 1 and presenilin 2 — are
known causes of inherited early-onset Alzheimer's, DIAN researchers
now hope to find the biomarkers, or indicators, that herald the
disease at its earliest stages," said Marcelle Morrison-Bogorad,
Ph.D., NIA Division of Neuroscience director. "By closely
monitoring the biomarkers of the DIAN volunteers, both those
with and those without the mutated genes, we should gain insight
into the underlying pathology behind both early- and late-onset
forms of the disease."
People interested in participating in the DIAN study should contact
DIAN Global Coordinator Angie Berry at Washington University at
314-286-2442, or go to www.dian-info.org.
Study participants must be aged 18 or older.
The NIA leads the federal government effort conducting and supporting
research on the biomedical, social and behavioral issues of older
people. For more information on aging-related research and the
NIA, go to www.nia.nih.gov.
The NIA provides information on age-related cognitive change and
neurodegenerative disease specifically at its Alzheimer's Disease
Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center Web site at www.nia.nih.gov/Alzheimers.
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please visit either Web site.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's
Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and Centers
and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic,
clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates
the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases.
For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.