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The Evolution of Alzheimer's Studies

From Audio: How Close Are We to Curing Alzheimer’s Disease?

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station description Dementia Matters is brought to you by the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Ce... read more
Dementia Matters
Duration: 06:40
Nina Silverberg, Ph.D., joins the "Dementia Matters" podcast to talk about how close we are to finding a cure for Alzheimer's Disease and how our studies have evolved in even just the past twenty-five years. She also gives us a look forward to the next 5 years of studies and how they will help.
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Nina Silverberg, Ph.D., joins the "Dementia Matters" podcast to talk about how close we are to finding a cure for Alzheimer's Disease and how our studies have evolved in even just the past twenty-five years. She also gives us a look forward to the next 5 years of studies and how they will help.
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my next question for you is what do you think the next five years of Alzheimer's disease research will bring? Well, I hope that it's going to look pretty different than it has in the past five years. I think that we're gaining a much, much better understanding of a term that we have used a lot but haven't really delved deeply into, which is heterogeneity. It means that there are so many differences in each person. And that's where we get to um what's been called precision medicine so that we're making sure that we understand for each individual what their risk factors are and what might help them specifically. And this can be based on genetics, It can be based on their environment, it can be based on their previous education, all kinds of pieces of information that we weren't really able to put together before. And I think that this is not only an unprecedented time in terms of dollars that are now available, but also research tools, this big data and open science. Um these are things that we just really in many years past didn't have access to in the way that we do now. And I think that's going to lead us to a much better understanding on an individual level, which is what we really haven't had before. A common topic on this podcast revolves your own biomarkers. Our audience understands at least that part of the term, but of course, one of the questions that commonly comes up both in research and clinic is our blood based biomarkers a part of this next frontier. Yeah, I would say absolutely. I think blood based biomarkers, you know, if everything pans out as we hope and as it's looking it's looking very promising, but it will help in at least three different areas. I would say number one, it's really going to hopefully help diversify the research participants because I think many more people are going to be willing to have blood drawn than have been willing to do some of the more invasive techniques that we've had to use in the past, like a spinal tap to get cerebrospinal fluid, something most people are not really interested in doing. Um and even brain imaging which does require injections sometimes and um loud noises and other things. So hopefully the blood draw will be um more people will be open to doing that. And then the second thing is I think it um again if it pans out it will really help with targeted clinical trials so that the people that are participating in the trial hopefully have the biomarkers that the trial was designed to look at. And then last I would say hopefully if it works for in the clinic which we're not there yet, but we hope to be is that it will help to get more people correctly diagnosed and that's a big deal. So that would be a major impact if it pans out. And you mentioned heterogeneity earlier. So do you think there's going to be more and more focused on other pathologies like vascular disease, Lewy body disease and TDP 43 which can be related to frontal temporal disease? Yeah, I think absolutely. I think this is part of the bigger picture. Is that what we have been calling? Alzheimer's disease we already know is a mix of multiple other things and we can't just look at one thing in isolation. So I think our increasing understanding of all these different related dementia and how they may all occur in one person or at least more than one of them may occur in individuals. I think we have to understand everything in that context. We can't just look in isolation. So I do think that will be an increasing focus and I know this is a passion of yours, this idea of this importance, I should say, of having underrepresented groups and rural americans in research, knowing that our Alzheimer's disease research centers usually are in major medical institutions, which are usually bigger cities. How do we reach are underrepresented participants part in our communities and how do we get out of big cities into the rural parts of the country? I think there's two things, I think one is that we've really pushed now harder and harder from at the national level, with importance of reaching to those communities. And I think, you know, the message is getting out. We've also provided some tools that will help when um someone new to the research area is trying to figure out how to reach them. We have those tools now available um from N. I. A. And some of those techniques that are being used community advisory boards. And really this approach of community based participatory research which means that people from the community are not just involved in giving advice or participating but they actually helped to design the studies. They help to look at the materials that are provided to the community to invite them to participate. They help to um look at what types of questions are being asked. And so this method is really helpful in getting people interested and involved in the research. And then the second thing is um you were asking about rural. You know it is harder because um many of these techniques have really required um the research participants to come to the medical center to get imaging and um to have better opportunity for the clinicians to evaluate them. But more and more, we're having opportunities for remote assessment. And there are so many different ways that we can look at risk factors and people's ideas and collect blood and collect other types of information at a distance that I think will really really help with this issue of um kind of uh an elite set of people that have been participating in the past.
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