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Study in Kannapolis says "brain banks" help battle Alzheimer's Disease

Posted: November 30, 2014 at 10:48 pm

KANNAPOLIS, NC (WBTV) - From the MURDOCK Study:In 1983, President Ronald Reagan designated November as National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month. At that time, fewer than two million Americans had Alzheimer's.

Today, the number of people with this disease, which diminishes the brain's ability to create and recall memories, has soared to nearly 5.4 million.

It's been more than a century since the German physician Alois Alzheimer described this disease in 1906, and progress toward a cure has been slow.

People often don't realize that Alzheimer's has been difficult to develop treatment for because there are no totally faithful animal models, said James Burke, MD, PhD, professor of Neurology and Medicine at Duke. Alzheimer's is a uniquely human disease.

Researchers at Duke, however, have access to two unique resources to study dementia: A study cohort of more than 1,500 healthy adults who are willing to have their mental processes studied over time through the MURDOCK Study, and abrain bankof more than 1,200 human brains donated to Duke during the past 25 years.

These are vital resources for studying Alzheimer's disease because dementia develops so slowly, said Richard O'Brien, MD, chair of Duke's Neurology Department. These resources give us the opportunity to look at the diseaselongitudinally.

Looking at Dementia Through Time

Duke investigators can study brain functions by tapping into the MURDOCK Studya long-term medical research project based at the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis. The study has enrolled nearly 11,000 community members in the Cabarrus County/Kannapolis region.

The MURDOCK Study includes a sub-study of about 1,500 enrolled participants with no documented dementia or cognitive decline. These volunteers have agreed to take cognitive tests and give blood samples periodically, providing a time-lapse view of cognitive functioning as well as changes to the body.

Of all the tools we have at Duke, the MURDOCK Study is the number one asset in our war chest for studying a disease like Alzheimer's, O'Brien said. To learn to cure dementia, we have to learn what is happening before the symptoms become obvious.

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Study in Kannapolis says "brain banks" help battle Alzheimer's Disease

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