26 Jan 2005
(U-WIRE) MINNEAPOLIS -- Researchers at the University of Minnesota will receive $8.1 million to study the effects of vitamin E on people suffering from mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease.
"Our population is aging, and increased age is one of the major risk factors for developing Alzheimer's disease," said Maurice Dysken, the Veterans Affairs Medical Center Geriatric Research, Education & Clinical Center director and University psychiatry professor.
Alzheimer's disease is a brain disorder that gradually destroys a person's memory and ability to learn, reason and make judgments.
In addition to vitamin E, the four-year study will look at the effects of a drug called memantine, which has been used to treat patients with more severe cases of the disease.
Dysken said memantine and vitamin E have already proven effective in people with moderate to severe Alzheimer's disease. He said the study will test the drug and vitamin both independently and combined on patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease who are already on standard treatments.
"The study is designed for definitive evidence that these medications will be helpful," Dysken said.
Daniel Gallaher, a food science and nutrition professor, said people can develop Alzheimer's disease if their bodies do not correctly break down fat.
"Vitamin E, as an antioxidant, can help prevent that breakdown from occurring," he said.
Dysken said 840 patients nationwide will be evaluated on their abilities to perform basic activities such as cooking, telephoning, shopping, bathing, eating and dressing. The patients' memories, behaviors and burdens on their caregivers will also be tested, he said.
A companion study will look at the genetic risk factors for developing the disease, Dysken said. Researchers will study a gene they believe is involved in the onset of Alzheimer's disease. They hope to determine whether genetics can predict who might respond to the medications being tested, he said.
Govind Vatassery, VA Medical Center neurochemistry laboratory director and Minnesota psychiatry professor, said he will be in charge of the pharmacological part of the study.
He said he will use blood tests to determine the ideal amount of memantine patients should receive.