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

Message from the Intern: The A-beta Disaster

My name is Jake, and I am the summer intern here at Cure Alzheimer’s Fund. Like most college kids, I tend to think that I know just about everything. On rare occasions (okay, on an extremely regular basis), my lack of omniscience manifests itself. However, I generally rationalize my ignorance with excuses like, “That piece of information was useless anyway,” or “Only a true nerd would know that.”

Unfortunately, times do arise when rationalization is impossible, and I must admit to myself that my knowledge is not as infinite as I’d like to think. Such was the case during my first day at Cure Alzheimer’s Fund, when President Tim Armour launched into a discussion about the effects of A-beta 42 accumulation in the brain.

Throughout Tim’s statement, I was completely lost. A-beta, nerve cells, oligomers, peptides…and then the dreaded silence, in which he looked at me expectantly, awaiting my response. I considered taking the reliable “head nod and a laugh” route instead of embarrassing myself with a verbal response, but then thought the better of it – after all, this is an Alzheimer’s research non-profit, and I had a sneaking suspicion that a conversation about Alzheimer’s disease might not merit a smile. I desperately racked my brain for other potential escape plans, but was ultimately left with only one option. The horrible, the humbling, the humiliating, “What is A-beta 42?”

Having been here for about a month now, it’s occurred to me that you might not know what A-beta 42 is either. Nearly every piece of informational material we publish talks about the protein, but what is it really?

Most researchers agree that the accumulation in the brain of a peptide (small protein) called A-beta 42 is the main cause of Alzheimer’s disease. “A-beta” stands for amyloid beta peptide, and scientists add the “42” on the end because the protein consists of 42 amino acids. When A-beta 42 begins to accumulate in the brain, it groups into “oligomers” which can then form plaques found in the brain. These oligomers interfere with or are toxic to neural synaptic activity in the brain, interrupting communications between synapses and causing nerve cells to break down and die. As a result, the person afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease begins losing his/her memory and ability to function normally.

This is obviously the abridged version of what really happens in the brain, and there is still a lot we don’t know. Cure Alzheimer’s Fund is raising money for research to find out what genes cause the brain to behave so abnormally, and to eventually halt A-beta 42 build-up altogether. Expect more (and I’m sure, embarrassing) posts from me in the future, and I look forward to learning more about Alzheimer’s disease together!

Cure Alzheimer's Fund Study Finds Surprising Side Effect from New Alzheimer's Treatment

Dimebon looks clinically promising in Russian study,
now revealed to increase substance in brain implicated in disease causation

New findings, announced on July 15 at the Alzheimer's Association 2009 International Convention on Alzheimer's Disease (ICAD 2009) in Vienna, Austria, unexpectedly showed that the former hay fever drug Dimebon increases generation by the brain of the beta amyloid peptide, a substance implicated in causation of Alzheimer’s. A study from Russia, announced last year, suggested that Dimebon might improve and stabilize thinking ability in Alzheimer’s disease.

We Second the Nomination!

Francis Collins has been nominated by the Obama Administration to be head of the National Institutes of Health. Here's an excerpt from The Scientist News Blog about the nomination:

'He is an exceptional scientist, administrator, and communicator', wrote Association of American Medical Colleges president Darrell Kirch in a statement. 'His skillful direction of [The Human Genome Project] – one of the greatest technical, scientific, and management accomplishments of our lifetime – is just one example of the expertise he will bring to NIH and its 27 institutes and centers.'

All of that, AND he’s a geneticist! Someone who understands the importance of identifying and understanding the function of the genes that give rise to the proteins and enzymes that drive all the metabolic pathways --- fundamental to understanding the causes of neurodegenerative diseases. Exactly the approach taken by Cure Alzheimer’s Fund.

GQ - Rockstars of Science - Rudy Tanzi & Francis Collins

It also doesn’t hurt that Collins has for a long time known and respected the work of several of our Research Consortium members, including Rudy Tanzi with whom Collins was pictured in a recent GQ photo spread to advance awareness and the importance of scientific research.

Click here to see this dynamic team in action!!!

Tanzi featured on Nova ScienceNOW segment on Autism

The Nova ScienceNow program on public television stations recently featured a segment on Autism genes and highlighted research done in part by Cure Alzheimer's Fund’s Rudy Tanzi as well as a number of others.

While Alzheimer’s is not specifically mentioned in this program, there is overlap between the two diseases and we are going to increasingly see progress in Alzheimer’s research from related diseases like Autism and others (including Parkinson’s, Diabetes, Huntington’s).

The segment provides an excellent overview of how the Genome Wide Association Screen (GWAS) works. Tanzi used this to identify 70 genes not previously associated with Alzheimer's disease. This innovative technology will help researchers to determine which genes may play a role in multiple, perhaps over-lapping neurological diseases.

Click here to view the program


U.S. News Recognizes Cure Alzheimer’s Fund Researcher, David Holtzman

Last week, US News & World Report recognized one of our Research Consortium’s leading scientists – Dr. David Holtzman. In the article, Holtzman was hailed as one of the top researchers in the field:

"He’s clearly one of the leaders in Alzheimer’s disease research," says Stephen Snyder, deputy director of the division of neuroscience at the National Institute on Aging. "He really sort of set a pace, a research agenda."
(Image from Jeffrey MacMillan for USN&WR)
Image from Jeffrey MacMillan for USN&WR

We share David’s tremendous passion and drive to end Alzheimer’s. And his work exemplifies several tenets of our venture capital approach to support research and find a cure.

First, he is a perfect example of our mantra: "find the people doing the best work and support them so they can do it even better, faster." With the other members of our Research Consortium, he has already made seminal contributions to the field and is blazing new trails in understanding the causes of the disease and how to link that understanding to effective therapies.

Second, David is an independent academic researcher at one of the leading Alzheimer’s research institutions in the world. The great part about our venture capital approach is that every dollar we have spent to support his program funds the direct costs of his breakthrough research; not his university’s overhead.

Third, David works with other members of the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund Research Consortium and other leading researchers to share theories, approaches and results. The research for which he is lauded in the U.S. News article is a truly collaborative effort --- both in the approach to research as well as in the funding. This collaborative approach allows our research team to build off one another’s successes and help speed results.. And most importantly, his research is linking what we learn from the genetic complexity of the disease to take us beyond treatment. As the U.S News article says about David, he "would prefer not to focus on treating the disease. His greatest hope is for researchers to recognize that the disease 'starts before the symptoms and signs.' That way, he says, 'we can work on prevention.'"

We salute David Holtzman and his colleagues for this breakthrough research, and we look forward to continuing to support him in our shared fight for a cure.

To help us fund David’s research, please donate to Cure Alzheimer’s Fund today!

Progress Toward a Cure?

We believe there is good progress being made toward an end to this terrible disease. But there’s more to finding a cure than meets the eye. In fact, there are 4 key steps on the road to a cure, and each one takes tremendous time, effort and money:

  • find all the genes that contribute to risk for the disease;
  • figure out which ones contribute the most and have the best prospects for treatment;
  • determine how these genes actually lead to increased risk;
  • and find the drug therapies that can most safely and effectively disrupt this link.

Progress along this path is accelerating. For instance, we now know, thanks to the Alzheimer’s Genome Project™ - supported by the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund - that there are more than 70 genes that contribute to risk for the disease. Some of these newly identified genes appear to be prime candidates for effective drug therapy.

Other recent discoveries have opened new doorways to understanding more about Alzheimer’s leading “bad guy”, the Abeta peptide. When these bind together and build up in the brain, they contribute to the dysfunction of critical neuronal synapses, disrupting the ability of cells in the brain to communicate with one another. We know more now about how those Abeta peptides come together and what might be done to keep them apart or clear them out of the brain before they do their damage.

Researchers know a lot more now than they did even five years ago. But it’s a life and death race. Today, about half of the population over 85 has the disease. The Baby Boomers are entering the prime age range at risk for Alzheimer’s (over 65), and as they continue to age we are facing an epidemic that could devastate families and ravage our economy.

So, how do we get to a cure quicker? We believe that by following the strategy outlined above and increasing funding for the most promising research, we will get there. We are making progress, but we still have a lot of work to do. Join us and help fund the cure in the next decade.

Welcome to the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund Blog

Starting today, this is your go-to spot to stay up to date on the cutting edge of Alzheimer’s research.

Our goal is to stop the disease for those who have it and ultimately prevent it from happening at all. So far, we’ve contributed 8.2 million dollars toward research and have identified more than 70 genes linked to the disease…and we’re not stopping until there’s an end to Alzheimer’s.

As we make progress toward a cure, we’re dedicated to keeping you informed about the latest advances and treatments.

Here are a few things you can expect to find on this blog:

  • Updates on the latest scientific advances in plain English – no PhD required!
  • Posts from our President and CEO Tim Armour about the projects the Cure Alzheimer’s community is helping to fund, like the Alzheimer’s Genome Project ™
  • Interviews and video posts from the research teams we support, giving you an inside look at where your donations go
  • News from our lead researcher, Dr. Rudy Tanzi, about the breakthroughs that are bringing us closer to a cure
  • Stories from families and caregivers, explaining why they’re joining in the fight for a cure

As we kick off this blog, we want to hear from you. Want more information about a specific project? Let us know. Think we’re using too much scientific jargon? Drop us a note. You can reach us at

Rock Stars of Science Website goes Live

Rock stars and researchers, including Cure Alzheimer’s Fund’s Sam Gandy and Rudy Tanzi, shared the spotlight in the June GQ magazine. Now the related website is live with expanded interviews and photos. Learn more about the how scientists and rock stars are working together to accelerate cures for our most threatening diseases.

Rock Stars of Science website>
Page about Dr. Rudy Tanzi>
Page about Dr. Sam Gandy>

Research Consortium member David Holtzman featured in US News and World Report

A US News and World Report article profiles a new test to determine the effectiveness of Alzheimer's drugs developed by Cure Alzheimer's Fund's Dr. David Holtzman. The stable isotope-linked kinetics or SILK test quickly reveals whether medication is working to limit the harmful protein amyloid beta.

Click here to read full article

GQ Magazine to feature Cure Alzheimer's Fund's Tanzi and Gandy as "Rock Stars of Science"

Photo credit: Ben Watts

Nationally recognized Cure Alzheimer’s Fund researchers Dr. Rudy Tanzi and Dr. Sam Gandy add another distinction to their scientific careers as they join rock celebrities Sheryl Crow, Josh Groban, hip hop artist and X-Men Origins: Wolverine co-star Will-i-am, Aerosmith’s Joe Perry; and Seal for a designer menswear photo shoot as a “Rock Star of Science” in the June issue of GQ Magazine, available nationally on May 25, 2009.

The Boston Globe wrote an editorial in support of the Geoffrey Beene/GQ "Rock Stars of Science" campaign.  Click here to read the editorial

Download the Full GQ Photo Feature>

Click here to see the profile on Dr. Tanzi on the "Rock Stars of Science" web site

Click here to see the profile on Dr. Gandy on the "Rock Stars of Science" web site