Alzheimer’s Foundation of America Begins 20th Anniversary Year by Awarding Nearly $1 Million Research Grant to Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research
Study to Develop Safe, Effective Treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease Psychosis and Aggression
(January 3, 2022)—The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) began its 20th anniversary year by announcing a $998,156 grant to the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research to expand research into developing new treatments aimed at addressing some of the most problematic behaviors of dementia—hallucinations, delusions, and aggression. The new five-year study builds on research previously conducted with a $500,000 grant AFA awarded to the Feinstein Institutes in 2016.
Psychotic symptoms and aggression are among the most troubling manifestations of dementia-related illnesses. Violent behavior directed towards caregivers is emotionally devastating and can be dangerous for those charged with providing a safe environment. Tragically, these behaviors are difficult to treat; and persistence of these symptoms are often the indication for placement outside of the home in a residential healthcare setting.
“There’s no better way to begin AFA’s 20th anniversary year than by making this investment in hope,” said AFA Founder and Board Chairman Bert E. Brodsky. “Finding new ways to treat these symptoms would have an enormous impact on safety and quality of life—both for people living with dementia and their caregivers. Researchers at the Feinstein Institutes are making exciting progress, and this new funding will enable them to continue building on it.”
“A new year brings new beginnings, and we hope that this research will be a new chapter in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease,” said AFA President & CEO Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr. “Just as AFA builds on the progress of its past twenty years, this new funding will help the Feinstein Institutes start the next phase of its research toward new treatments.”
A team of scientists led by Jeremy Koppel, M.D., Co-director of the Litwin-Zucker Research Center at the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research, have recently found an association between the distribution of abnormal tau proteins in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients as visualized with advanced PET neuroimaging and psychotic symptoms. A previous discovery made by the team linked impairments in the processing of facial emotion with the onset of psychosis in Alzheimer’s. This, together with new PET scan evidence of abnormal tau in brain regions believed to be critical for this faculty led investigators to the hypothesis that tau disrupts networks in regions of the brain necessary for reality testing. Investigators believe that this may result in psychosis and aggression.
“The funding provided by AFA made our work possible; and the ongoing support is critical, allowing us to do the necessary research to translate these discoveries into safe and effective treatments for patients and caregivers,” says Dr. Koppel.
The next five-year phase funded by the new AFA grant aims to target these symptoms through the development of immune therapies in the form of antibodies that bind to pathogenic tau. Researchers will conduct a study comprised of three types of participants—those with both Alzheimer’s and psychosis, those with Alzheimer’s but without psychosis, and healthy controls between the ages of 65 and 85. Participants will undergo a battery of cognitive and electrophysiologic testing, with levels and location of tau quantified in each group with new tau PET imaging technology. The goal is to identify which areas of the brain correspond to specific symptoms, so that they can be targeted through antibody treatments.
AFA is able to award research grants such as this through the generosity of individuals and organizations. To make a donation to support AFA’s research efforts, as well as programs and services for families affected by Alzheimer’s disease, visit www.alzfdn.org/donate or call AFA at 866-232-8484.