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A new study takes a preventative approach to Alzheimer's treatment

A doctor holding brain scans.jpg
Anna Shvets

Alzheimer’s is a degenerative brain disease that causes memory loss and dementia as people age. Researchers around the world are seeking to better understand and develop treatments for the disease.

Instead of treating symptoms as Alzheimer’s progresses, the AHEAD study takes a different approach, treating patients well before they begin seeing the disease’s effects. Research has shown changes in the brain occur up to 20 years prior to any noticeable symptoms, leading to potential for treatment much earlier on and in much younger patients. Dr. Hamid Okhravi of Eastern Virginia Medical School is an expert in Alzheimer’s and leading researcher in the AHEAD study.

“The ahead study is a prevention trial in Alzheimer's disease that tests whether an experimental medicine can prevent or slow down symptoms of Alzheimer's disease up to 20 years before they start,” Dr. Okhravi said.

It is a more preventative approach to treatment that involves a personalized experience for those participating. Study participant Carol Turner shared her experience.

“The whole process includes doing MRIs and thinking and memory tests, as well as the wellness test. So it's a full gamut of making sure that we are fit and making sure that we you know, that we're healthy,” said Turner.

Historically, underrepresented groups have not been included in clinical trials for Alzheimer’s, but Dr. Okhravi and others involved in the study are looking to change this.

“If you take a look at clinical trials, there is underrepresentation of African Americans and Latinos, yet the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease is twice in the same population compared to non-Hispanic whites,” Dr. Okhravi said.

Understanding Alzheimer’s in patients of all backgrounds is key to creating effective preventative measures and treatments for all those affected by the disease.

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Erin Lewis is a science reporter at Utah Public Radio and a PhD Candidate in the biology department at Utah State University. She is passionate about fostering curiosity and communicating science to the public. At USU she studies how anthropogenic disturbances are impacting wildlife, particularly the effects of tourism-induced dietary shifts in endangered Bahamian Rock Iguana populations. In her free time she enjoys reading, painting and getting outside with her dog, Hazel.