Over the past 18 months, 81-year-old Bill Bunnell has visited the doctor a half-dozen times to take memory tests, provide blood samples, and undergo a spinal tap and imaging scans. It’s all part of the most extensive study ever conducted on Alzheimer’s.
Working with $2 million in new grants to be announced this week, the researchers for the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative will, for the first time, start mapping the DNA of 800 participants in a study attempting to find the root causes of memory loss. The goal is to see if physical changes from Alzheimer’s can be matched to genetic disparities, which can then be compared with findings from healthy people like Bunnell.
“If there’s ever to be progress in the discovery of the fundamentals that lead to Alzheimer’s, this is the way to do it,” said Aubrey Milunsky, director of the Boston University Center for Human Genetics, which isn’t involved in the research.
The ADNI study has sought to tie the development of symptoms to physical changes in people with Alzheimer’s, including deposits of protein tangles and plaque in the brain over time.