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Neuroscientists at Burke Neurological Institute Are Breaking New Ground to End Alzheimer’s Disease

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Every 65 seconds, someone in the United States is given the devastating diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). AD is the leading cause of cognitive disabilities including attention, perception, memory, language, learning, and reasoning which significantly interfere with daily life. With a progressively aging population, current forecasts predict the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease will inflate from 6 million to a projected 14 million Americans by 2050(1). Current clinical trials using well known therapeutic targets have continuously failed. Therefore, we must think outside of the box and find new avenues of investigation to cure this horrible disease.

Burke Neurological Institute (BNI) is currently investigating novel targets to cure Alzheimer’s disease. Patients with AD show a decrease in glucose utilization 20-30 years prior to signs of memory loss. Dr. Gary Gibson’s team at the BNI, in collaboration with physicians at the Burke Rehabilitation Hospital, are currently conducting a clinical trial testing a new therapeutic drug, benfotaimine. This compound has been shown to be safe in humans and is being used to increase glucose utilization in the brain. Benfotimine acts via a pathway that uses vitamin B1 to increase glucose utilization in the brain. The hope is that by increasing glucose utilization, it will ultimately slow or stop memory decline. This clinical trial is supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation.

Dr. Amit Kumar and colleagues in the Ratan laboratory have found that manipulating brain glucose levels in a specific way in animal models of AD stops memory decline by upregulating genes that effect memory. Furthermore, by studying the genes that are upregulated and involved in memory, they have identified specific therapeutic targets to potentially cure AD. The next big effort of the team is to translate these important findings into human AD patients. This work is supported by National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Goldsmith Foundation.

Both Drs. Gibson and Kumar have dedicated their life’s work to curing AD. They are driven by the urgency to find a cure that will not only help AD patients but continue to give hope to the caregivers and families that live with this disease every day. Nearly half of all caregivers who provide care to older adults do so for someone living with Alzheimer's or another form of dementia and provide an estimated 18.5 billion hours of care valued at nearly $234 billion (2). Although these numbers are staggering, it does not compare to the devastating emotional toll this disease takes on family members and friends that watch their loved ones continue to decline each day. We need to do more, we need to find a cure.

Infographic for Alzheimer's

Burke Neurological Institute is a nonprofit leading scientific research institute devoted to advancing the study of neurological diseases and injuries, pioneering novel rehabilitation therapies and developing innovative clinical programs and clinics. Burke Neurological Institute brings hope to those living with neurological disabilities caused by a host of afflictions, including stroke, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, and Alzheimer’s disease. Our world-class neuroscience helps people to see, talk and walk again. Hope demands innovation and brilliant science and every day with our academic affiliate, Weill Cornell Medicine, we transform groundbreaking research into promising neurological treatments.

1-2. Facts and Figures. www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/facts-figures. Accessed 12 June 2019