Amherst Alzheimer's research trail could, for some, stop the disease in its tracks - The Buffalo News

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Amherst Alzheimer's research trail could, for some, stop the disease in its tracks

Most patients seen Dr. Horacio Capote and his staff in the neuropsychiatry division at Dent Neurologic Institute have mood disorders that can be hard to treat: depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

But because the division is focused on diseases of the brain, Capote and his staff also spend much of their time treating patients with Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, brain tumors and other conditions that can damage brain function.

The staff’s role spills beyond treatment, into research.

Capote, subject of this weekend’s In the Field feature in WNY Refresh, is a member of the National Steering Committee for the National Institutes of Health Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative.

Part of that role involves opening an exciting international research project to those in Western New York who fear they may be in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.

“What we’ve learned is that it’s a progressively degenerative disease and the earlier we get on board, the better,” he told me last week. “We have an Alzheimer’s prevention trial, called the A4 Study.

“We do a PET scan, looking for amyloid in the brain – the plaques that seem to help the neurons degenerate,” Capote said. “If we find the plaques, the person is eligible for treatment. This is all research. It’s not in the general public yet. Then, there’s an antibody that looks to take that amyloid out of the brain.

“For the prospective subject, it’s a win-win. If you screen in, you can get the antibody. If you screen out, you’re happy as hell because there’s no amyloid in your brain.”

Those interested in participating in the research study can call Dent at (716) 250-2038.

The Dent Neurologic Institute was established by the Dent Family Foundation, led by Harry M. Dent Jr., in 1963, the year after his father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. During the last half century, the private academic institute has become an international leader in treatment of brain-related diseases and helped make inroads in the continuing fight against them. Its research, among other advancements, helped establish the standard dosing guidelines for the Parkinson’s drug levodopa.

Dent is among 50 research institutions worldwide participating in the A4 Alzheimer’s study.

We’ve got a lot of trials going on here,” Capote said in his fifth-floor office at the Dent headquarters building in Amherst, “so that phone number is great for any neuroscience research from Parkinson’s to movement disorders to depression.”

The A4 Study holds particular meaning for Capote, a Cuban American whose maternal grandparents each suffered with Alzheimer’s.

“Latinos in general have about 1½ the rate of diabetes as the general public, which makes us 1½ times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, because a lot of what happens with Alzheimer’s is wear and tear on the brain, and diabetes is a major risk factor,” Capote said. “With African Americans, the rate is twice as much.”

The study started two years ago and is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.

“The data is all blinded,” Capote said, “but we do have some suspicion about results because the actual antibody we’re using has been used in other studies in later stages of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s, and people are blinded but are allowed to use it openly after the initial phase of the treatment.”

Results from those taking the antibody – whose official name “has a lot of letters and numbers” – suggest that their Alzheimer’s disease stays stagnant and has not progressed, Capote said.

That’s why early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is so key.

“If you have a mild dementia and it stays mild,” the doctor said, “that’s not bad.”


Twitter: @BNrefresh

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