National Study Aimed at Improving Alzheimer’s Diagnosis and Treatment Begins at WFUBMC

February 8, 2006

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center is one of 60 centers in the United States and Canada selected to study the most effective methods for measuring changes in the brain and body that could lead to earlier diagnosis and improved treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.

The aim of the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative is to find the best tools for measuring physical changes during the course of Alzheimer’s disease, to use those tools as clinical standards and to improve the speed of developing new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.

“We know so much about early detection and treatment of conditions such as heart disease, cancer and infections but have been tragically lacking similar knowledge for Alzheimer’s Disease. The ADNI will be a major step forward in this area,” said Jeff Williamson, M.D., director of the Roena Kulynych Center for Memory and Cognition Research at Wake Forest Baptist.

Currently, people with memory problems or Alzheimer’s disease take a battery of neuropsychological tests of memory, thinking and behavior that are lengthy and must be administered repeatedly for an accurate diagnosis. It may be possible to monitor the disease’s progression faster by instead using physical measures such as brain size and activity, the presence of certain proteins in the brain, or biomarkers in the blood or spinal fluids.

During the study, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) will be used to measure physical changes in the brain. Blood and cerebrospinal fluids will also be tested as indirect indicators of change. This study will compare the two imaging methods – the MRI and the PET – to each other, as well as to the biological markers in blood and spinal fluid, and to the standard clinical and neurological tests.

By determining the most effective methods for tracking changes in the brain, researchers would be able to better assess the effectiveness of new Alzheimer’s medications. In addition, researchers want to use those methods to detect Alzheimer’s-related changes earlier, before the signs and symptoms of the disease become obvious in day-to-day life.

The study, a partnership of 60 medical centers in the U.S. and Canada, is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) with major support from the private sector.

The study is enrolling men and women ages 55 to 90 in one of the following categories: people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in the last year; people recently diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment; and people with no known memory problems. Participants will be studied for two to three years.

Study data and samples will be made available to qualified researchers in government, academia, and the pharmaceutical industry so that analyses can be done as quickly as possible.

Anyone interested in participating in the study may call toll-free 1-800-438-4380.


Media Contacts: author, email address, Shannon Koontz,, or Karen Richardson,, at 336-716-4587.

About Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center: Wake Forest Baptist is an academic health system comprised of North Carolina Baptist Hospital and Wake Forest University Health Sciences, which operates the university’s School of Medicine. The system comprises 1,187 acute care, psychiatric, rehabilitation and long-term care beds and is consistently ranked as one of “America’s Best Hospitals” by U.S. News & World Report.

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