Find updates on the work of our researchers here, as well as news about recent advances in Alzheimer's science, funding and awareness.

Alzheimer’s and Diabetes Link

Alz Forum, the dynamic online scientific knowledge base that reports on the latest Alzheimer's scientific research, has a good article on the recent discovery by Cure Alzheimer’s Fund Researcher Sam Gandy on a link between Alzheimer’s and diabetes, arising from the Alzheimer’s Genome Project which identified new Alzheimer’s gene candidates.

Madolyn Bowman Rogers writes:

Two pernicious disorders of late life, Alzheimer disease and diabetes, may be tied together by a common connection with a pathway that sorts and trafficks proteins such as APP within cells, new research suggests. In the September 29 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers led by Sam Gandy at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City report that the sorting protein SorCS1 reduces Aβ generation when overexpressed, and conversely is associated with higher levels of Aβ in female mice when underexpressed. SorCS1 has been genetically linked to both diabetes and AD. The convergence of these two diseases on SorCS1 may help explain why having diabetes is a risk factor for contracting Alzheimer’s. The results also suggest a potential new pathway for therapeutic intervention into both disorders.

This paper is important, said Thomas Willnow of the Max-Delbrueck-Center for Molecular Medicine in Berlin, Germany, as it adds pieces to help solve the puzzle of the intracellular trafficking of APP. The data also fit well with previous reports finding that trafficking pathways may be altered in AD, Willnow said. “I think it all adds up and points to a very important aspect of [AD] pathology.”

Read the full article “APP Sorting Protein May Link Alzheimer’s and Diabetes” >

We congratulate Dr. Gandy on this important work and are proud to have helped support it!



New Research Reveals Common Genetic Risk Factor Linking Alzheimer’s Disease and Type 2 Diabetes

Potential for New Therapies to Treat both Diseases

The discovery of a molecular mechanism linking Alzheimer’s disease and Type 2 Diabetes could lead to exciting new drugs to treat both devastating diseases, according to new research published this week in The Journal of Neuroscience.  Researchers found that the gene for a protein called SorCS1, which is linked with Type 2 Diabetes, participates directly in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s.

Supported by Cure Alzheimer’s Fund (CAF), the research was led by Dr. Sam Gandy, professor in Alzheimer’s disease research at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Dr. Rudy Tanzi, PhD, Harvard University’s Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology and Director of Genetics and Aging Research Unit. Both are members of the CAF research consortium.  Also part of the team were University of Wisconsin geneticist Alan Attie, PhD, who discovered the linkage of SorCS1 to diabetes in 2007, and Columbia University Alzheimer’s researcher Scott Small, MD.  Rachel Lane, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow at Mount Sinai, and Summer Raines, Ph.D., a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin performed the research and shared first authorship.

“Alzheimer’s and Type 2 Diabetes are complex diseases and the risks of both include high cholesterol, obesity and vasculopathy, but these factors are highly interrelated and the challenge has been finding a clear starting point to understand the relationship between the two diseases,” said Gandy. “Our research has revealed a molecular mechanism in the gene SorCS1 that is shared by Alzheimer’s and type 2 diabetes. These findings could open up new doors for more effective treatments for both diseases.”

The research found that the brains of mice genetically deficient in SorCS1, created by Raines and Attie, showed increased levels of amyloid-beta (Abeta), known to play a key role in the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Meanwhile cells engineered to express high levels of SorCS1 generated low levels of Abeta.

The SorCS1-deficient mice also were found to have abnormally low levels of another protein called Vps35, a profile that Dr. Small linked to Alzheimer’s disease in a 2005 study.  Thus the low SorCS1 might cause levels of Vps35 to go down and lead to the increased formation of Abeta in the mice, and, presumably, Alzheimer’s, in humans.  For the moment, this work provides potential insights and new targets but therapeutic outcomes will require more research.

“Alzheimer’s and Type 2 Diabetes are major causes of illness and death in the elderly and these findings could lead to new drug targets to treat both diseases by increasing levels of SorCS1 or Vps35,” Dr. Tanzi said.  “While further research is needed to find the link between SorCS1 and Vps35, these data will open many new doors.”

“Dr. Gandy and Dr. Tanzi are on the cutting edge of Alzheimer’s research and always take an innovative approach to any challenge they face,” said Tim Armour, president and CEO of Cure Alzheimer’s Fund. “We, at Cure Alzheimer’s Fund, are proud of their work and the hope it offers to the millions of Americans and their families affected by both of these devastating diseases.”

CAF Supported Research by Sam Gandy Reveals Diabetes and Alzheimer’s Link

Cure Alzheimer’s Fund Research Consortium member, Sam Gandy, published research this week in The Journal of Neuroscience linking genes from Alzheimer’s and Type 2 Diabetes. Gandy and other researchers found that the gene for a protein called SorCS1, which is associated with Type 2 Diabetes, participates directly in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s.

This work is critically important because it gives new targets for therapy and provides new ways of looking at and understanding both diseases. Watch coverage of this important work on MSN and NBC Nightly News.

Link to video>

Read more about this and how it comes directly from the work of Cure Alzheimer’s Fund’s AGP project conducted by Rudy Tanzi at Mass General Hospital>

Read about this research in Medical News Today>

White House Briefing on Challenge of Alzheimer's

Cure Alzheimer's Fund President, Tim Armour, and Research Consortium Chairman, Rudy Tanzi, were featured in a video from the White House on World Alzheimer's Day. Armour and Tanzi were invited to serve on a special panel to discuss the serious challenge Alzheimer's poses to our nation. Panelists concluded that Alzheimer's is going to have an increasingly devestating effect and all agreed we cannot wait; more must be done to fund research to put an end to this disease as soon as possible.

Read our previous blog on this event>



Univ. of Pittsburgh and MGH Alzheimer's Project Receives $400,000 Grant

Cure Alzheimer's Fund announced it's latest grant at an event this morning in Pittsburgh. The announcement was covered yesterday in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The article highlighted Cure Alzheimer's Fund's strategic approach, the organization's history and profiled Chairman Jeff Morby.

Read the article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette>

Read the Press Release>


Univ. of Pittsburgh, Mass General Hospital awarded Alzheimer’s Research Grant for Innovative Collaboration on Derivatives to Treat Disease

Univ. of Pittsburgh’s Dr. William Klunk & MGH’s Dr. Rudolph Tanzi to Discuss Joint Effort At World Alzheimer’s Day University of Pittsburgh Forum

Pittsburgh  – Bringing together two esteemed institutions known for groundbreaking Alzheimer’s research, Cure Alzheimer’s Fund has awarded the University of Pittsburgh a $300,000 grant and Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard (MGH) a $100,000 grant to fund an innovative joint research project on Alzheimer’s disease, which currently affects 5.3 million Americans and their families.

Jeffrey Morby, Cure Alzheimer’s Fund (CAF) Chairman and co-founder and Pittsburgh resident, praised the project and its novel approach to treatment and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. “As Chairman and co-founder with my wife Jacqui of the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund, we have looked forward to the opportunity to help bring these two prestigious institutions together for this great cause,” said Morby, who will announce the grant at a University of Pittsburgh World Alzheimer’s Day Forum. “This pioneering collaborative research on Alzheimer’s disease will help to better understand this devastating disease and could lead to better treatment, ways to reverse its effects and even find a cure.”

This project blends the unparalleled expertise in Alzheimer’s research of these two premier institutions. MGH has identified the largest number of candidate Alzheimer’s genes in the world while University of Pittsburgh has developed a unique and powerful method to analyze the brain for signs of Alzheimer’s pathology.

Funded exclusively by Cure Alzheimer’s Fund, the project will focus on advanced work identifying key components of Alzheimer’s pathology in living Alzheimer’s patients, which will enable more rapid development of effective therapies against the disease. The team is headed by University of Pittsburgh’s William Klunk, MD, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry and Neurology and Co-Director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, and MGH’s Rudy Tanzi, PhD, Harvard University’s Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology and Director of Genetics and Aging Research Unit, and Chairman of the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund Research Consortium.

University of Pittsburgh and MGH researchers will identify and characterize novel curcumin-like (CLDs) derivatives for the treatment and early prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. Several recent studies have suggested promise for treatment of Alzheimer’s with the major component of curry spice or turmeric called curcumin. However, the major drawback in this treatment is the rapid breakdown of the curcumin by the stomach and liver leads to poor bioavailability or absorption by the brain. The purpose of the research study is to develop means of overcoming obstacles to rapid breakdown and creating  methodologies for precisely delivering curcumin derivatives to appropriate locations within the brain.

Dr. Tanzi’s team will further study the properties of these CLDs in variety of assays and animal models for effects on the amyloid beta protein precursor (APP) and the generation of Abeta, a protein that is widely believed to drive Alzheimer’s disease pathology.

University of Pittsburgh will synthesize the CLDs and test their Abeta-binding affinities as well as their bioavailabilities, brain entry and toxicity characteristics. Combining their results with the work of Dr. Tanzi’s lab, researchers will design and synthesize additional novel CLDs and test these compounds.

G. Nicolas Beckwith III, Chairperson of the University of Pittsburgh Board of Directors applauded the unique partnership and the work of the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund, “Like University of Pittsburgh, Cure Alzheimer’s Fund understands that research is where we must start to find more effective treatments and a possible cure for this devastating disease.”


Tanzi and Armour participants in White House Sponsored Meeting of the Status of Alzheimer’s Research

The status of research in the United States to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease was the focus of discussion at a White House sponsored event on World Alzheimer’s Day, Tuesday, September 21, 2010.

Cure Alzheimer’s Fund Research Consortium Chair Dr. Rudolph Tanzi and Tim Armour, President of the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund, participated on a scientific panel at the White House event before a select audience of White House senior staff policymakers, leading scientists, advocates and others including Jeff Morby, Chairman and co-founder of Cure Alzheimer’s Fund, and Melody Barnes, Director, White House Domestic Policy Council. The topics covered included the current status of biomarker identification for the disease, current thinking about prevention, the strength of the drug pipeline for Alzheimer’s and possible policy initiatives to accelerate progress toward a cure.

Panelists agreed that more funding from both the public and private sectors needs to be invested in finding a cure and better treatments; and more aggressive efforts at creating public-private partnerships to provide focus for research efforts is crucial.

The clear message to come from the meeting is that Alzheimer’s is having a devastating impact not only on the growing number of patients and their families but on the national budget as well. With the Federal government spending $172 Billion on care for Alzheimer’s patients through Medicare and Medicaid in 2010, and the National Institutes of Health able to invest only $470 million in basic research, the “cure” will be a long time in coming if there is not a rapid change in national priorities.

All agreed that we cannot afford to wait, and the development of effective therapies to prevent or stop Alzheimer’s has to be a national priority, backed by a clear strategy and resources to implement it.


Hobbling Science and Scientists

William Sahlman, the senior associate dean for external relations at Harvard Business School, wrote an excellent op-ed in the Boston Globe yesterday. We couldn’t agree more with his assessment of the dreadful funding environment for scientific research.  His piece helps us understand the difficulties of making productive progress in disease research by taking a look at how research labs work. While this piece was inspired by the recent stem-cell research issue, it is applicable to most research including Alzheimer's.

Read the op-ed in the Boston Globe>

The new γ-secretase modulators

Esther Landhuis covers the topic thoroughly in a good article on Alzforum.

“Despite recent setbacks on the clinical front, the hunt for small molecules that can cleanly tweak γ-secretase to slow Alzheimer disease seems to be alive and well” writes Esther Landhuis on Alzforum about new γ-secretase modulators.

The research published in Sept. 9 Neuron is on the success of gamma secretase modulator (GSM) drugs in Alzheimer’s disease mice from Cure Alzheimer’s researchers Steve Wagner and Rudy Tanzi.

Tanzi writes that the GSMs “could be used like statins are used today to prevent heart disease. If there was pre-symptomatic evidence that amyloid levels were too high in a patient’s brain, a GSM might be taken to lower relevant peptide levels and reduce AD risk. You don’t want to knock out these peptides. They have a purpose. You just want to dial them back to safe levels.”

The Alzforum piece explains the details behind this exciting work.

Read the article: New γ-Secretase Modulators Reduce Aβ42, Avoid Notch

AARP Features Cure Alzheimer's Fund Discovery

Elizabeth Agnvall writes in the September AARP Bulletin: “The controversial new theory gaining traction in the scientific community is that in Alzheimer’s disease the brain is not destroyed by sticky plaques – long held to be the culprit – but by free floating clumps of protein.  .  .(called oligomers).

“Plaques are no longer where the action is” says Sam Gandy . . .

Gandy’s work builds on several years of research that has been moving toward this new theory. And if the theory is correct, the drugs that target plaques – as many of the most promising medications have done in the past few years  - may not help those who have the disease”

This important and potentially paradigm shifting discovery is the direct work of Cure Alzheimer’s Fund’s Oligomer Collaborative. The article quotes CAF Research Consortium Chairman Rudy Tanzi and Research Consortium members Sam Gandy and Sam Sisodia.

Read the full story in the AARP Bulletin>