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Alzheimer's Breakthroughs

Airdate: February 23, 2017
Alzheimer's Disease affects 100 million people worldwide. Some of the greatest breakthroughs are happening in Arizona at the Banner Alzheimer's Institute. We visit the Institute and hear from the doctors who believe their team will find a way to prevent the disease within 10 years. And, we talk with a Phoenix couple about their personal struggle coping with Alzheimer's Disease.

Category: Medical/Health

Keywords: Alzheimer's Disease, health, Banner Alzheimer's Institute,

View Transcript
JOSE: 100-MILLION PEOPLE WORLDWIDE HAVE BEEN DIAGNOSED WITH ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE AND THAT NUMBER IS EXPECTED TO RISE. PRODUCER SHANA FISCHER AND PHOTOGRAPHER ROB MCJANNET INTRODUCE US TO 2-LOCAL DOCTORS AND THEIR GROUND-BREAKING STUDIES AT THE BANNER ALZHEIMER’S INSTITUTE IN PHOENIX.

SHANA FISCHER: BILL HAS GOOD DAYS AND BAD DAYS.

DR. PIERRE TARIOT: HUNDRED PERCENT?

BILL MCCULLOUGH: 99.

SHANA FISCHER: IT IS THAT WAY WHEN YOU HAVE ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE.

DR. PIERRE TARIOT: WHAT IS THE ONE PERCENT MISSING?

SHANA FISCHER: ALZHEIMER'S IS THE MOST COMMON THINKING DISORDER.

DR. ERIC REIMAN: IT ROBS PEOPLE OF THEIR ABILITY TO RECOGNIZE LOVED ONE'S FACES AND PERFORM TASKS.

SHANA FISCHER: REIMAN AND HIS TEAM ARE DETERMINED NOT TO JUST FIND A WAY TO TREAT THE DISEASE BUT PREVENT IT.

DR. ERIC REIMAN: WE SEE A REGION IN THE BRAIN AFFECTED BEFORE PEOPLE DEVELOP SYMPTOMS.

SHANA FISCHER: HE IS CONFIDANT IT WILL HAPPEN BEFORE 2025. THE KEY HE BELIEVES IS TREATING THE DISEASE EARLY ON.

DR. ERIC REIMAN: WE CAN DETECT AND TRACT SOME OF THESE CHANGES STARTING ABOUT 25 YEARS BEFORE PEOPLE DEVELOP SYMPTOMS. USING THESE MEASUREMENTS, AND USING OTHER SUBTLE MEMORY AND THINKING CHANGES, WE HAVE BEGUN TO DEVELOP WAYS TO EVALUATE PREVENTION THERAPY EVERY TWO YEARS FOR PEOPLE BASED ON THEIR BACKGROUND OR GENETICS INCREASE RISK.

SHANA FISCHER: THEY STUDY THERAPY LIKE MEDICATION. THEY ATTACK ALZHEIMER’S GENETICALLY. 1-4 OF US ARE CARRIER OF AN ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE AND THROUGH STUDYING AMYLOID.

DR. ERIC REIMAN: AMYLOID IS A PROTEIN FOUND IN MOST OF US. THERE IS A PARTICULAR LONGER FORM OF AMYLOID THAT DEVELOPS IN INDIVIDUALS WITH ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE.

SHANA FISCHER: IN THIS BRAIN IMAGING, THE LIGHT BLUE AREAS CONTAIN THE AMYLOID. YOU CAN SEE THE AREAS OF THE BRAIN AFFECTED BY THE AMYLOIDS GROWING AS PEOPLE AGE. THEY BELIEVE BY PREVENTING THE ROGUE AMYLOIDS FROM DEVELOPING IT IS POSSIBLE TO STOP ALZHEIMER’S IN ITS TRACKS.

DR. ERIC REIMAN: IF WE HAD A TREATMENT THAT COULD BE STARTED BEFORE THE DISEASE RAVAGED THE BRAIN IT MAY GIVE THE TREATMENT THE BEST CHANCE IT WILL WORK. IMAGINE USING A CHOLESTEROL LOWERING TREATMENT AFTER A HEART ATTACK BEFORE THEY DEVELOP SOMETHING WORSE.

MARYANN MCCULLOUGH: IT IS AN INTERESTING THING THAT WE MET IN DECEMBER, WE WERE ENGAGED IN JANUARY, AND WE WERE MARRIED IN FEBRUARY.

SHANA FISCHER: MARY ANN RECALLS THE ROMANCE THAT BROUGHT HER AND BILL TOGETHER NEARLY 50 YEARS AGO. A MATH TEACHER SHE MET BILL IN SAN DIEGO. BILL, A STANFORD UNIVERSITY GRADUATE LOVED HIS WORK IN FINANCE AND HE DOTED ON MARY ANN.

MARYANN MCCULLOUGH: BILL WAS THE FIRST TO OBSERVE SOMETHING WAS DIFFERENT. HE HAD SURGERY ON HIS HIP AND HE WOKE UP AND SAID MY BRAIN ISN’T WORKING RIGHT.

SHANA FISCHER: MARY ANN WAS CONCERNED BUT THE DOCTORS SAID THE MEDICINE HE RECEIVED WERE TO BLAME ON THE MEMORY ISSUES. BILL ONLY GOT WORSE.

MARYANN MCCULLOUGH: WE WERE TRYING TO HANG TWO LAMPS ON EITHER SIDE OF THE BED. AND BILL, WHO HAS ALWAYS BEEN REALLY SHARP -- WE WERE NOT COMMUNICATING. A THING THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN SIMPLE, YOU MEASURE OVER AND YOU MEASURE UP. HE COULDN'T DO THAT.

SHANA FISCHER: THAT WAS EIGHT YEARS AGO. EVEN THOUGH BILL'S MEMORY IS GETTING WORSE, MARY ANN STILL SEES GLIMPSES OF THE MAN SHE MARRIED.

MARYANN MCCULLOUGH: WHEN I SLEEP AT NIGHT I KICKOFF THE COVERS ALL THE TIME. I AM A ROUGH SLEEPER. AND BILL, IN OUR BIG KING SIZE BED, WHEN HE KNOWS I HAVE DONE THAT, HE WILL GET UP AND WALK AROUND TO MY SIDE OF THE BED AND PUT THE COVERS ON ME. I LOVE THAT.

SHANA FISCHER: ALZHEIMER'S ISN'T JUST ROBBING BILL OF HIS LIFE. AS HIS PRIMARY CAREGIVER, MARY ANN ADMITS SHE STRUGGLES TOO.

MARYANN MCCULLOUGH: I AM NOT DOING AS GOOD A JOB AS HE DESERVES. I ROLL MY EYES SOMETIMES. I SIGH. AND I DO THINGS THAT ARE NOT THE PERSON I WANT TO BE.

SHANA FISCHER: DR. PIERRE TARIOT IS HIS DOCTOR. GROWING UP FAMILY, PARTICULARLY THE OLDER WOMEN IN HIS WERE A STRONG PRESENCE IN HIS LIFE AND LED HIM TO THIS WORK WITH ALZHEIMER’S.

DR. PIERRE TARIOT: OVER A HUNDRED YEARS AGO, A GERMAN PSYCHIATRIST, DR. ALZHEIMER'S, DESCRIBED A PATIENT, A WOMAN IN HER 50s WHO HAD DEVELOPED PROGRESSIVE LOSS OF MEMORY AND THINKING ABILITIES. AND THESE CRIPPLING BELIEFS SHE WAS GOING TO BE KILLED AND TURNED INTO SAUSAGE OR TAKEN AWAY IN A CARRIAGE IN THE NIGHT. HE FOLLOWED HER INTO HER DEATH AND DESCRIBED THIS DEVASTATING ILLNESS AND DESCRIBED CHANGES IN THE BRAIN HE HAD SEEN IN THE MICROSCOPE AFTER SHE DIED THAT ARE TO THIS DAY CONSIDERED THE HALLMARKS OF THE DISEASE THAT CARRIES HIS NAME.

SHANA FISCHER: HE SPENDS HIS DAY SEEING PATIENTS THAT WILL NOT GET BETTER DESPITE HIS BEST EFFORTS. HE IS FRUSTRATED HOW LITTLE WE TALK ABOUT ALZHEIMER'S. A GLOBAL DISEASE THAT AFFECTS 100 MILLION PEOPLE AND COSTS BILLIONS IN HEALTH CARE. EXPERIMENTAL TESTS ARE A WAGER 99% OF THEM FAILED. THE ONLY WAY TO SUCCEED IS IF PEOPLE STEP UP AND VOLUNTEER FOR ONGOING STUDIES LIKE THOSE AT BAI.

DR. PIERRE TARIOT: WE NEED YOU. WE NEED YOUR HELP. WE NEED YOU TO UNDERSTAND THAT WE HAVE SHOTS ON GOAL HERE TO TRY TO PREVENT AND TREAT ALZHEIMER’S. WE NEED VOLUNTEERS. PLEASE JOIN US. BE PART OF THIS REVOLUTION.

JOSE: IF YOU'RE INTERESTED IN MORE ON THE FIGHT AGAINST ALZHEIMER'S, THE DOCTORS ENCOURAGE YOU TO JOIN THE ALZHEIMER’S PREVENTION REGISTRY. ENDALZNOW ORG. THERE YOU CAN LEARN ABOUT GENETIC TESTING TO SEE IF YOU HAVE THE ALZHEIMER GENE, YOU CAN ALSO CHECK OUT OTHER RECENT STUDIES.