BOSTON (CNN) – It is one of the most dreaded diseases of older age: Alzheimer’s. Researchers have a good understanding of what causes this most extreme form of dementia and now, in an exciting development, they are studying a possible way to stop it.
Alzheimer’s disease affects some 5 million Americans and over the next 30 years that number could triple, says Dr. Reisa Sperling, a neurologist at Boston’s Brigham and women’s hospital. However, now a tantalizing possibility, a way to potentially cut Alzheimer’s disease off at the pass by early detection and treatment.
It’s the early detection of what are known as amyloid plaques in the brain, using what’s known as a pet scan.
“Amyloid is a protein that our nerve cells produce normally. But in Alzheimer’s Disease it accumulates into these plaques – plaque build-up,” said Dr. Sperling.
Art Canter, who scanned positive for amyloid build-up, is taking advantage of that window. The 67-year-old Boston resident is enrolled in what is known as the “A4 study” at Brigham and women’s hospital.
The study is testing whether a new drug, known as an anti-amyloid antibody, can “clear” plaques from the human brain.
“It’s worth it to participate. I have nothing to lose other than the time I’m taking to do an infusion once a month,” said Canter.
“The idea behind the A4 study is very similar to what we do with heart disease. We find people who have slightly elevated cholesterol and we decrease their cholesterol with statin drugs and hopefully prevent heart attacks and prevent strokes. I think we can do that in Alzheimer’s Disease,” said Dr. Sperling.Copyright 2015, CNN. all rights reserved.