SHAKER LIFE | WINTER 2017 39 More than five million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s, a devastating form of dementia that robs people of the ability to perform even the simplest tasks, not to mention almost all their memories. It’s the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Most people with Alzheimer’s are over age 65, though about five percent of patients are in their 40s and 50s. Available medications don’t stop the disease’s progression, only ease its symptoms for a limited time. It’s the desire to find an effective treatment for the disease that motivates Dr. Deborah Gould. Gould is a geriatric psychiatrist and principal investigator for Insight Clinical Trials, an independent research facility, based in Shaker on Warrensville Center Road, that conducts research studies for therapies that target dementia and Alzheimer’s. “The purpose is to find a breakthrough for dementia,” says Gould, a longtime Shaker resident. “We finally understand the mechanisms,” she explains, “so now we need medicines aimed at attacking those issues.” Researchers now understand that one of the main mechanisms of Alzheimer’s is the accumulation of a protein called beta-amyloid in the brain. Specifically, beta-amyloid wreaks havoc on the neurons of the brain, eventually causing them to die. As this process spreads, it causes the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s. For example, the memory loss experienced by Alzheimer’s patients – a common sign of the disease is forgetting recently learned information – is likely a result of the beta-amyloid’s impact on the hippocampus, which helps form new memories. “Our bodies produce beta-amyloid and everyone has it,” says Gould. But researchers are still trying to understand why some people go on to develop Alzheimer’s, while others do not. Meanwhile, beta-amyloid is also implicated in other forms of dementia. At Insight Clinical Trials, research on Alzheimer’s breaks into two main categories: “We try to attack the production of beta-amyloid or remove the betaamyloid,” says Gould. In the former, participants receive monthly intra-venous infusions of antibodies directed against beta-amyloid; in the latter, participants take what are called BACE inhibitors. “This is to inhibit an enzyme that is involved in the production and deposit of the beta-amyloid in the brain,” explains Gould.
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