January 27, 2017
Daily Herald - Healthy You Section
Misplacing keys, forgetting someone’s name or blanking on a phone number. We don’t pay much attention to these memory lapses when we are young; however, as we age we may start to worry about what they mean.
It’s important to know the difference between normal forgetfulness and the symptoms of a more serious problem, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is more than memory loss. It is a brain disease that may remain “silent” for many years before noticeable symptoms start to show. Researchers believe Alzheimer’s can start to affect the structure of the brain as early as age 40. Eventually the disease progresses to a point where obvious symptoms can be seen, such as memory loss, reduced decision making skills or confusion with time and place.
Great Lakes Clinical Trials is a research organization committed to finding a way to stop, slow down or even prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
“We are at a time when research is advancing rapidly,” said Steve Satek, president of Great Lakes Clinical Trials and member of the Medical and Scientific Advisory Board for the Alzheimer’s Association’s Greater Illinois Chapter. “A noninvasive imaging technique called Positron Emission Tomography (PET scans) has allowed us to see inside the brains of humans and identify buildup of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tau tangles, that are believed to be the source of Alzheimer’s disease. A few years back the only way to visualize plaques and tangles was through an autopsy.”
PET scans are among several new procedures available to identify individuals who may be living in the “silent phase” of the disease.These individuals have little-to-no symptoms of memory loss, but a PET scan may show the signs of Alzheimer’s disease inside their brain. Researchers believe that if the medical community can break up or reduce the amount of plaques and tangles in these individuals, then these people may have a greater chance of delaying memory loss.
Promising, investigational medications that target this source of Alzheimer’s disease are now being studied in the Chicago area, at clinics like Great Lakes Clinical Trials. For these new treatments to be approved by the FDA and become available by prescription, they must first be studied in clinical trials.
“Some people I meet say they don’t want to know if they are in the silent phase. They tell me there is nothing they can do about it, so they don’t want to know,” Satek said. “I see why people may first respond that way, but when they learn of the advancements in research and the opportunities in clinical trials, they tend to change their view. They see hope.”
Across the country, volunteers for clinical trials are needed now, or this challenge will be passed to future generations. “Most of the patients we see are participating as part of their legacy.
They are doing it for their children and grandchildren,” Satek said. “Participation in clinical trials is free, including the PET scans. Insurance is not required. Patients remain under the care or their regular doctor and our board-certified physicians simply provide supplemental care. Great Lakes
may even provide free transportation for clinic visits.”
There truly is hope for a prevention or cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Whether someone has no noticeable signs of memory loss, or if they are starting to experience memory problems that are affecting daily activities, joining a research study is an option.
To learn how you can help be the solution to ending Alzheimer’s disease, call Great Lakes Clinical Trials at (773) 275-3500 or visit www.greatlakesclinicaltrials.com.