BANGOR, ME (WABI) - According to the latest research, one out of every eight Mainers 65 and older, is living with Alzhiemer's disease.
The diagnosis for those 65 to 74 year old is expected to grow by 77% in the next decade.
Joy Hollowell tells us about a groundbreaking clinical trial in Bangor that could actually prevent the disease altogether.
"Beta Amyloid is a protein that comprises the plaques of Alzheimer's disease. We believe, we hope that if we can prevent further accumulation of Beta Amyloid in the brain, we can prevent Alzheimer's disease."
Dr. Clifford Singer is the principal investigator for the Alzheimer's Disease Clinical Trials Program at Acadia Hospital and Eastern Maine Medical Center. He says this study is unlike any other they've done, because it focuses on Alzheimer's, absent of symptoms.
"We recruit people over 60 if they have a family member with Alzheimer's disease. Or if they are just over 60. We screen them with extensive memory and cognitive tasks to make sure they are normal."
Bonnie Johnson applied for the study. She lost her father to Alzhiemer's disease. Now Johnson is watching her sister go through the same thing.
"You always have that in the back of your mind that- is it you, do you have it? Are you going to get it?" she says.
If Johnson is accepted for the trial, she will have to undergo a PET scan. The images will show whether Johnson has beta amyloid in her brain. Those with this protein are considered at high risk for developing Alzheimer's.
"In this study, we'll find out how likely it to progress over the 5-year duration of the trial," explains Singer.
The goal is to reduce those plaques and stave off the symptoms.
"It's comparable to reducing cholesterol and triglycerides in people at risk for heart disease," says Singer.
Participants must be older than 65. Or over 60 but with a family member who has Alzhiemer's. Bangor is the only site in Northern New England participating in the global study. Singer stresses this study is not for those already diagnosed with the disease.
"This study, we're actually hoping for prevention of Alzheimer's disease eventually in people who have the first step along this pathway," says Singer. "This is groundbreaking really."
The study includes a rigorous protocol focusing on both the what if, and when of a positive PET scan.
"It's kind of scary," says Johnson. "My daughter had said to me- you know, do you really want to know that? And I said- well, I don't know if I do, but it will be determined."
"It's a big part," adds Singer. "What I didn't anticipate was how it's affecting me. We did our first amyloid disclosure on a positive scan a few days ago, and it wasn't easy."
Johnson says no matter what the outcome, she sees this as a gift.
"I would like to think about that for future generations," she says. "I have children, they have children. And I was hoping that something would come up to help people."
If you'd like more information on the Alzheimer's Disease Clinical trial, you can call Kristie Miner at 973-6986 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also log onto http://www.acadiahospital.org/
They'll be accepting study participants for at least a year.