NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — After early results were released saying Eisai’s and Biogen’s potential new Alzheimer’s drug slowed the disease in a late-stage study, a leading psychiatry researcher at Vanderbilt felt encouraged about the study he is conducting.

“It certainly makes us feel more confident this is the right thing to do,” Director of the Center for Cognitive Medicine Dr. Paul Newhouse said. “I think this is the beginning of a new era in Alzheimer’s disease treatment and perhaps prevention. I think in the years and decades to come we will make real progress.”

Dr. Newhouse’s study, the AHEAD study, looks at how the same drug as Eisai and Biogen studied can be used to slow the development of Alzheimer’s in patients who aren’t showing any symptoms, yet.

The investigational drug goes after a protein in the brain that researchers believe induces the Alzheimer’s process, beta-amyloid.

“It’s not the whole story. It is the beginning of the story,” Newhouse said of the protein.

Newhouse sees going after beta-amyloid as one treatment that will be used to fight Alzheimer’s. He compared what he is trying to do in this study to reducing cholesterol to reduce the future risk of heart disease.

“Our hope is if we reduce this level of protein in the brain, we can either reduce the progression of the illness or even perhaps stop it from appearing in the first place,” he said.

However, while Newhouse was cautiously optimistic, one of the patients in his trial was keeping her fingers crossed that she is taking the anti-amyloid medication and not a placebo.

“I want from a lab rat guinea pig to benefit others to being a lab rat guinea pig for my own improvement,” said study participant Carolyn Berry.

This is Berry’s fourth clinical trial with Newhouse’s team, but the first one she believes could benefit her directly.

When Berry’s Mom passed away three years ago from Alzheimer’s, she wanted to be proactive in fighting the disease.

“I know that anybody who has seen it wants a healing for that, they want a remedy for that,” she said.

Considering her Grandmother had also passed from the disease, she wasn’t surprised when doctors detected elevated levels of beta-amyloid in her brain.

“When you have a family member who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s the very first quarter of the second that you hear that you think, ‘oh my gosh.’ And you feel terrible about what that family member is going to go through, but then immediately after that you think about what does this mean for me and what does this mean for my own children,” she said.

But she hopes this study and the future ones she plans to participate in mean that maybe her children or her children’s children won’t need to deal with this disease at all.

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