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For many of us, solving Alzheimer’s disease is personal

By September 30, 2019Commentary, In the News

Contributed by Joshua Grill, PhD

Dorene Rentz and her husband, Ray Berggren, at their home in Natick, Mass. Dr. Rentz helped design the cognitive tests used in the A4 Alzheimer’s clinical trial in which her husband is now participating. Photo credit: M. Scott Brauer for the Wall Street Journal

Alzheimer’s disease is a public health crisis. UCI MIND investigators regularly speak in public to increase awareness of the magnitude of the problem and the urgency of our work (see Event Calendar). But many of us leave the clinic, laboratory, or office to face this crisis at home as well.

In this excellent article in the Wall Street Journal, our friend and colleague Dr. Dorene Rentz, an investigator in the Harvard Aging Brain Study, and her husband Ray Berggren tell their story. Ray is participating in the A4 study that is also ongoing at UCI MIND. In the A4 study, more than 1,000 altruistic research champions are bravely volunteering to test a medication as a potential prevention for Alzheimer’s disease. Ray doesn’t have Alzheimer’s disease dementia, but he is at increased risk and has some problems with memory.

Even with family members participating, the science of the clinical trial cannot be put at risk. Ray participates at Boston University, rather than at Harvard where Dorene works. And even though Dorene is an investigator on the A4 study, Ray still has a 50/50 chance being assigned to drug or placebo. Like all of us, Dorene and Ray are hopeful and eager for the results of the trial, which are expected in 2022. Rigorous clinical research with dedicated investigators and participants, like Dorene and Ray, will be essential to bring us closer to solutions.

Dr. Grill is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry & Human Behavior and Neurobiology & Behavior at the University of California, Irvine. He is the Director of UCI MIND and Associate Director of the UCI Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC). He also directs the Outreach, Recruitment, and Engagement Core for the ADRC and is leads the Accrual and Retention Consult Service for the UCI Institute for Clinical and Translational Science. His research is currently focused on clinical trials across the spectrum of Alzheimer’s disease. He has published a number of important findings on trial design, recruitment and retention, and research ethics.