A nationwide Alzheimer’s Disease study being conducted at a Lowcountry hospital is searching for participants.
The ADNI3 study is one of the longest-running studies on Alzheimer’s aging and brain cognition and the largest study for the disease in the United States. Roper St. Francis Hospital in Charleston is one of 59 research sites nationwide.
South Carolina leads the nation in rate of deaths from Alzheimer’s Disease. It is the sixth leading cause of death overall in the United States.
“There are so many questions that we have about Alzheimer’s,” nurse practitioner and primary investigator Abigail O’Connell said. “There are so many things that we don’t understand. So trying to find mechanisms to predict or determine who is at risk for Alzheimer’s, to predict who will convert from normal cognition to cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s.”
O’Connell said researchers hope to “answer questions about how cognitive aging works, what are valuable predictors for who will develop Alzheimer’s Disease and who won’t.”
The Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative is intended to develop data that can be used in other research in order to find drugs and treatment. The cognitive testing will then be compared with what the brain looks like to identify what is happening.”
Participants older than 55 are needed who have normal cognition, mild impairment or early to mild Alzheimers. They will receive a cognitive assessment and imaging procedures. Researchers will be measuring MRIs, Brain Scans, PET scans, glucose metabolization, tracking and development of plaque in the brain and accumulation of plaque in the brain and cerebral spinal fluid.
“We now know, in large part because of the ADNI study, that many people that are cognitively normal already have elevated plaque in the brain and that is considered a risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s,” O’Connell said.
O’Connell said this is an observation study with no intervention. Researchers will save time on other studies by using the data gathered here.
“The data collected in this study is able to be used by other Alzheimer’s researchers. So there have been almost 1,700 peer-reviewed, scholarly papers published using the ADNI data. The pace at which it’s advancing our knowledge of the field is just incredibly important,” she said.
Part of the study is to try to develop a blood test to detect Alzheimer’s.
“If we can use a blood test to determine who’s got it or who’s going to get it then we can do a prevention. We can try to find a treatment,” said Dr. Michael Weiner, principal investigator. “We’re not sure right now which blood tests work and how to do them . . . what we really need is a blood test.”
“It means we can learn a lot more,” O’Connell said. “Different researchers can ask the questions that they have using the ADNI data instead of having to fund their own small study every time. So that data is incredibly important to the field . . . In some ways, this isn’t as appealing to some participants because we’re not looking at a specific drug. The importance of the data is absolutely vital to the field.”
For more information, or to enroll as a participant, click here or call 888-223-6495.
O’Connell said the value of the study is gathering data over time. Some study participants have been tracked and studied for a decade.
“One of the biggest challenges researchers face is finding people to volunteer to take part in studies,” Weiner said. “We can beat Alzheimer’s, but we can’t do it without volunteers. We need help.”