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Hopeful woman joins Alzheimer's study

February 23, 2009 2:20:28 PM PST
The beginning of Alzheimer's can be a peculiar experience.One local woman is able to a hold a lively debate about the economy with her husband, yet can't remember how to drive.

Researchers hope a new investigational drug will help 57-year-old Leanne Grimsley and others like her hang on to the mental function they have.

Grimsley sought help early after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2004.

Her law school sweetheart and new husband says one minute the two are hotly debating politics, but the next she can't recall the simplest of things.

"It seems so strange. Little things she has trouble with, like remembering something from moment to moment," said Gary LaPook.

The two decided to be part of a UCLA clinical trial testing a new type of drug.

"A disease-modifying therapy, a therapy that actually slows the progression of the disease," said Dr. Joshua Grill, director of Alzheimer's clinical trials at UCLA Medical Center.

The director of Alzheimer's clinical studies at UCLA's Easton Center says Alzheimer's attacks people's brains differently, but how the disease starts appears to be the same.

"Much of what we know still points to beta-amyloid as the culprit in the disease," said Dr. Grill.

The goal of the drug is to prevent the death of brain cells. It does so by blocking a receptor, which triggers cell death.

"A big victory would come with an agent that was able to halt people where they currently are, as far as their cognitive abilities when they are affected with this disease," said Dr. Grill.

The trial is blinded, so Grimsley doesn't know if she's getting the drug or a placebo, but she and her husband are optimistic about the research.

"They're going to come up with a cure in the very near future," said LaPook. "And I think other people should be optimistic also."

Researchers are very hopeful new Alzheimer's breakthroughs will happen in the near future, thanks to the participation of patients like Grimsley.

The drug, known as a rage inhibitor, is in Phase-2 trials. Dr. Grill says if the drug performs as well as scientists hope, it could become available within five to 10 years.


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