Researchers at CU are on the threshold of groundbreaking discoveries that could dramatically improve our understanding, prevention and treatment of Alzheimer's disease. I have a personal interest in the work, led by Dr. Huntington Potter, whose research approach has several facets that are unique in the world.
My wife Marcy's mother suffers from Alzheimer's and we have experienced the toll it takes on individuals and families. Some 5.4 million Americans have it, and associated health and home care costs exceed $200 billion annually. Those numbers will skyrocket as baby boomers age. Approximately half of all people older than 85 will get the disease. Colorado has a particularly fast-growing Alzheimer's population, with an estimated 124 percent increase expected by 2025, among the highest percentage increases in the U.S.
Potter and his team from our School of Medicine's Neurology Department are attacking Alzheimer's disease on a variety of fronts at CU's Alzheimer's Disease Center and Research Institute.
For example, Potter pioneered research on the genetic link between Alzheimer's and Down syndrome and found that Alzheimer's patients develop brain cells similar to those in Down syndrome patients, who also get Alzheimer's. We attracted him to CU in part because our Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome is the only Down syndrome institute in the country. The confluence of research expertise in each field could have a powerful impact on how we address the two conditions. Another factor that drew Potter to CU was our cyclotron, advanced machinery that allows real-time imaging of the brains of Alzheimer's patients.
Potter's work also found a link among people who almost never develop Alzheimer's - patients with rheumatoid arthritis - whose condition could provide clues about fighting Alzheimer's. His ongoing clinical trials show the same proteins produced by patients with rheumatoid arthritis in an effort to combat the affliction might also attack Alzheimer's disease developing in the brain.
Additionally, he was the first to show how a specific gene works to be the most important risk factor for Alzheimer's (other than age). This insight can help develop treatments aimed at preventing the genetic process that leads to Alzheimer's.
Potter also leads efforts to establish a National Institute on Aging (NIA)-designated Alzheimer's Center at CU, replicating a national model where physicians and researchers collaborate to translate scientific advances into improved diagnosis and treatment while also keeping their eyes on the prize of preventing or curing Alzheimer's. There are 27 such centers around the U.S. After some 30 years at Harvard and further work at the University of South Florida, Potter established Florida's first NIA Alzheimer's Center before coming to CU. NIA support is critical to securing funding for ongoing research and clinical care. Potter is laying the groundwork to garner NIA designation for our center, which would make it one of the few between the Mississippi and the Pacific and the only one in the Mountain West.
CU is ideally positioned to join the network. The NIA requires an established Alzheimer's research center before granting affiliation and funding. Potter and his team are building its foundation, focusing on the partnership with the Crnic Institute, developing the scientific and clinical core, engaging in clinical trials that have shown promise, starting new research studies, and operating a clinic for the public that will make assessment and treatment more widely available in Colorado. We are engaged in fundraising for the project and welcome your support. In addition, Potter will be speaking about his Alzheimer's research, treatments and discoveries at a CU Advocates event on April 3. Click the ad below for more information.
Marcy and I know from experience the devastating effects of Alzheimer's disease. I am heartened that CU is putting the pieces in place to be a leader nationally in fighting - and hopefully curing - the disease.
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