A swab of the cheek could lead to Alzheimer's cure
Summit Research Network seeing volunteers for Alzheimer's disease study
A simple swab of the cheek could make Alzheimer's disease a thing of the past in 20 short years. Researchers around the country, including those at Summit Research Network in Portland, are participating in a national program called GeneMatch, which uses genetic testing to match volunteers with relevant Alzheimer's research opportunities in their local area.
One research effort that recently began enrolling participants through GeneMatch in Portland is called the Generation Program. The program is seeking individuals ages 60 to 75, who are cogitatively normal but may have an increased risk for developing Alzheimer's disease based on their genetic status.
Dr. Scott Losk, the principal investigator at Summit Research Network, explains that the idea behind the genetic testing is to "nip it in the bud. We want to find a medicine that would address diseases of the brain and change the gradual downhill slide into a flatline," he said. "It's a different model and approach."
He likens the approach to that used 40 years ago, when high cholesterol was first linked to heart disease. Today patients with high cholesterol are commonly prescribed statin medications, which has led to reduced vascular disease.
"Adult children watching their parents deal with Alzheimer's are the most motivated participants to the study," he said. "They want to understand their risks of getting Alzheimer's."
The Generation Program is the first to incorporate both genetic testing and counseling into the study screening process. Prospective participants referred to the trial will be required to learn their APOE (Apolinipoprotein E genetic risk factor) test results. Only those who learn they have one or two copies, or genetic markers, may be eligible to participate.
Getting that information begins with a swab of the cheek, which interested participants can either do through a free cheek swab kit delivered to their home or at the study site. The swab is analyzed for the APOE gene, the major genetic risk factor for late-onset Alzheimer's disease.
Losk explained that the Generation 1 program is specifically for those with APOE 4, 4, which represents only three percent of the population. Generation 2 tests for APOE 2, 4 or 3, 4 which is less likely to develop.
"Everyone knows somebody with Alzheimer's disease," said Losk. "More than 5½ million Americans have Alzheimer's, and millions more have more mild memory loss. We've been gathering samples for the study since early last fall. There are 190 sites around the world working on the Generations screenings."
Losk says the project aims to make Alzheimer's a disease of the past in 20 years.
Those interested in joining the study must be between the ages of 60 and 75, in good health with no cognitive impairment. To learn more visit summitresearchnetwork.com or MemoryHealthCenter.com or call 503-228-2273.