New trial looking for patients carrying Alzheimer’s Disease gene

This year, the Memory Clinic has been enrolling patients in the Generation Trial, who have no memory problems, but those with traces of amyloid plaque, the protein that destroys the connections of nerve cells and is found in Alzheimer’s Disease patients.

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Hattiesburg Clinic Neurologist Dr. Ronald Schwartz is on a mission to save your memory.

“The focus has shifted to earlier and earlier stages of disease,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz serves as principal investigator of several trials of Alzheimer’s Disease for Hattiesburg Clinic’s Memory Center. In each case he’s studying the ravages of the disease, from the beginning to the end stages looking for treatment options, but now he wants to find a way to stop this memory thief before it starts.

“The Generation Program is more of a prevention trial than a treatment trial,” Schwartz said.

This year Schwartz said the Memory Clinic has been enrolling patients in the Generation Trial, who have no memory problems, but those with traces of amyloid plaque, the protein that destroys the connections of nerve cells and is found in Alzheimer’s Disease patients.

“What we do know is that it takes 15 to 20 years to build up enough of this amyloid protein before you have any symptoms of Alzheimer’s at all. So, there are people walking around who are asymptomatic and these amyloids are gradually starting to accumulate in their brain without any symptoms,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz said finding these people and giving them a disease modifying therapy is the best shot to slow the plaque before it’s too late. He said finding them starts with a swab for a genetic risk factor.

“Everyone has two copies of ApoE, one from your mom, one from your dad,” Schwartz said.

What Schwartz is looking for, for the trial, is ApoE-4, the riskier gene. If you have one or two of the gene then you are eligible for the Generation Prevention Trial.

“Having ApoE-4 doesn’t mean you’re going to get Alzheimer’s, it just means you have a higher risk than somebody who doesn’t have the E-4. We check that through a cheek swab,” Schwartz said.

The whole process is free. He said once you’re in the trial you will go through memory tests, an amyloid pet scan, blood work, EKGs, the experimental medicine all over a five year period. It’s all a package deal in hopes that in the end there is hope to slow or even stop this disease.

“There’s a deep pipeline of people trying really hard to find some way to prevent this catastrophe from affecting people,” Schwartz said.

If you want to know if you are eligible for the trial, or you would like more information call the Memory Center at 601-579-5016.

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