Local Advocates, Researchers Fight Alzheimer’s Disease | New

LARAMIE — November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, a time when activists strive to raise awareness of a disease that, to many, still seems shrouded in uncertainty.

For members of the Wyoming Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, the work has several goals: to help provide research and resources for people with dementia and to educate their loved ones on how to provide the best care.

“We’re here for them, and no one needs to go through Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias (alone),” said Debra Antista-Bianchi, the chapter’s executive director.

The organization offers a wide range of free resources for families affected by Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, including a 24-hour professional helpline, support groups and 14 different educational programs. .

She stressed the importance of educating family members and caregivers of people with dementia, as well as the patient themselves.

Dementia itself is not a disease, but the word used to describe a set of symptoms that could be caused by many factors, Bianchi said. The cause could be a disease such as Alzheimer’s disease or be caused by other curable health factors.

That’s why it’s crucial that people with dementia see their primary care physician for a proper diagnosis, Bianchi said.

Even those who are well-educated about seeking appropriate care for dementia face challenges due to the availability of resources and the debilitating nature of the disease, said Robin McIntyre, a Laramie resident who is the director of the development of the Wyoming chapter of the association.

In 2020, there were 10,000 people age 65 and older with the disease in Wyoming. This number is expected to increase by 30% by 2025, according to a report by the Alzheimer’s Association.

The group predicts that in Wyoming, a 38.5% increase in healthcare workers will be needed to meet the demand from Alzheimer’s patients in 2028.

With an aging population in Wyoming, the need for dementia care is increasing, and there aren’t enough providers who are prepared for that increase, McIntyre said.

Long-term care facilities for Alzheimer’s patients may already be under-resourced, have long waiting lists and be too expensive for people to pay out of pocket, McIntyre said. That’s why, in addition to providing education, the group dedicates time to fundraising through the Walk to End Alzheimer’s Disease and other events.

Regardless of the mode of communication, the group hopes to get as many people on board as possible to help fight the disease.

There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but hope may be on the horizon, McIntyre told Laramie City Council Nov. 1.

McIntyre inherited a gene that causes early Alzheimer’s disease and spent years participating in clinical drug trials aimed at finding a cure.

While she is still awaiting results from the drug trial she is participating in, leading results have recently been reported for other preventative drugs, she said.

An anti-amyloid drug has been shown to decrease cognitive decline by 27%.

At the same time, a team of researchers from the University of Wyoming is working to attack the disease by another approach.

Yun Li, an assistant professor at UW, recently received a $2.25 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to continue her research on Alzheimer’s disease and Alzheimer’s-related dementia.

While much research over the past 20 years has focused on removing beta-amyloid plaque which is known to accumulate between neurons on the outside of brain cells in people with AD Alzheimer’s, Li’s work takes a different direction.

Li and his team are using mouse models to search for TDP-43, an important RNA processing protein that normally belongs in a cell’s nucleus.

Scientists have found that in 30-57% of Azheimer patients, TDP-43 clusters in clusters outside the nucleus where it shouldn’t be.

This formation likely occurred in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease and other brain disorders, such as frontotemporal dementia and Lou Gehrig’s disease, even before patients began to show behavioral symptoms, said Li.

While research on TDP-43 is still in its early stages, Li and his team hope that this focus will help pinpoint the cause of these diseases before patients begin to suffer from the symptoms and accompanying cognitive decline.

“Rather than targeting something that appears to be happening at an advanced stage, we want to identify a potential new target that is occurring at a very early stage,” Li said. no behavioral symptoms yet.”

The grant money will allow Li to work with a team of about 12 people in Laramie and collaborate with his partners at Johns Hopkins University, who received a portion of the grant money.

Li explained that although receiving grants for Alzheimer’s disease research is a competitive process, many resources are available at the federal level and through private foundations.

Li’s team will be working on research at a very early stage, but hopes that one day it could have an impact on people affected by these types of diseases.

In the meantime, advocates will continue to broadcast their support in other ways.

“There’s not an audience that we don’t want to be in front of, because our community as a whole is affected, and everyone is on deck,” Bianchi said. “If we can intentionally keep members of our community who are affected engaged in living their lives for as long as possible, that’s really good.”

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