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Thursday, August 05, 2010
Bikers Want More Brain Research
By Olivier Uyttebrouck
Journal Staff Writer
An investment in research today could limit soaring costs and human suffering caused by Alzheimer's by providing doctors with the drugs and diagnostic tools they need to better treat the disease, cross-country cyclists said Wednesday during a stop in Albuquerque.
Alzheimer's researchers and supporters are cycling across the country to raise awareness of the disease that afflicts an estimated 5.3 million Americans and in support of proposed legislation that would expand federal funding for research.
The number of Americans diagnosed with Alzheimer's is expected to double to 16 million by 2050 as the U.S. population ages, said Bruce Lamb, an Alzhemer's researcher and professor of neurosciences at The Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland.
"This is a crisis that is right there on the horizon, and investing now would definitely reduce costs long-term," Lamb said after he and other riders pedaled into Civic Plaza on the Alzheimer's Breakthrough Ride.
Because age is the greatest risk factor for Alzheimer's, Lamb said, delaying its onset by five years would cut in half the incidence and cost of the disease.
Lamb and other riders urged Congress to pass the Alzheimer's Breakthrough Act, which would appropriate $2 billion annually for Alzheimer's research, up from the current level of $465 million a year.
Volunteers collected signatures Wednesday to present to Congressional leaders on World's Alzheimer's Day, Sept. 21, supporting passage of the act.
Alzheimer's is a progressive and fatal illness that destroys brain cells, causing problems with thinking and behavior.
Lamb said the key to improving treatment for Alzheimer's lies in promising new diagnostic tools that may one day allow doctors to diagnose the illness years before symptoms appear.
In recent years, researchers using powerful brain imaging tools have found changes in the brain indicating that someone is likely to develop Alzheimer's, Lamb said. Other "biomarkers" are found in cerebral spinal fluid, he said.
Early diagnosis should allow researchers to more effectively conduct drug trials and treatments that target people five or 10 years before they develop symptoms.
"Early indications are that some of these biomarkers may be very good early diagnostic markers of the disease," Lamb said. "Once we have those biomarkers, we can begin to do much more intelligent drug studies."