Global Awarded $500,000 for Down Syndrome-Alzheimer’s Research

This May, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, State Senator Mike Johnston, and the state legislature allocated $500,000 for the Rocky Mountain Alzheimer’s Disease Center, a Global affiliate. The state has now invested $1.25 million over three years to support the first Alzheimer’s disease research and clinical care center in Colorado, and the first in the U.S. with a specific focus on Down syndrome.

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The Global Down Syndrome Foundation’s Alzheimer’s disease initiative received another big boost from the state of Colorado this year when Governor John Hickenlooper included in the budget $500,000 for the Rocky Mountain Alzheimer’s Disease Center.

2014-321day-s-25 for WEb

Colorado Governor John W. Hickenlooper, President and CEO of Global Michelle Sie Whitten, Global board member John J. Sie, and self-advocates celebrate World Down Syndrome Day.

Lawmakers are concerned that Colorado is one of the fastest-growing states in terms of Alzheimer’s disease as a percentage of the population. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates nearly 420,000 people in Colorado and adjacent states have Alzheimer’s, at an estimated societal cost of over $20 billion a year, according to their 2016 report.

The scientific world understands most people with Down syndrome have the brain pathology of Alzheimer’s disease and an estimated 50% will develop dementia symptoms before age 50. Answering the question of why half of the people with Down syndrome do not get dementia is a promising path toward treatments or a potential cure for Alzheimer’s, which would benefit people with Down syndrome as well as the typical population with Alzheimer’s.

The Rocky Mountain Alzheimer’s Disease Center is the first comprehensive Alzheimer’s center in the United States with a special focus on Down syndrome. It is housed at the University of Colorado School of Medicine at the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora and co-funded by the university’s Neurology Department and the Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome, the first academic home for Down syndrome research in the country. It is the only comprehensive, full-time center in a 600-mile radius of Denver and a much needed resource for families in the region.

Dr. Huntington Potter
Dr. Huntington Potter

Huntington Potter, Ph.D., is the founder and director of the Center and was recruited by the Global Down Syndrome Foundation, the Crnic Institute, and the Department of Neurology at CU.

Potter is a renowned Alzheimer’s disease researcher who discovered the mechanistic relationship between Alzheimer’s and Down syndrome.

Read more about Dr. Huntington Potter’s groundbreaking research

People with Down syndrome by definition are born with three copies of chromosome 21 instead of two. People with Alzheimer’s disease have many cells with three copies of chromosome 21. As the amyloid precursor protein gene (APP) resides on chromosome 21, these trisomy 21 cells produce excess APP and its product, the Alzheimer beta peptide, contributing to the development of Alzheimer’s disease pathology.

“Our first goal is to create — within the next two years — a comprehensive, nationally recognized Alzheimer’s disease patient care center and research institute that will serve the people of Colorado and surrounding states,” Potter said.

In addition to Potter, the CU Department of Neurology recruited Jonathan Woodcock, M.D., to be clinical director of the Rocky Mountain Alzheimer’s Disease Center.

Potter also launched the Center’s first clinical trial looking at Leukine in people with early onset of Alzheimer’s disease after his lab discovered the protein that likely explains why people with rheumatoid arthritis rarely get Alzheimer’s disease. Leukine is already approved by the FDA for use in patients with arthritis, and there are indications that Leukine can be a treatment in the pursuit of a cure for mitigating symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

Support for the Rocky Mountain Alzheimer’s Disease Center is just one of the Global Down Syndrome Foundation’s Alzheimer’s initiatives. In 2013, the Global Down Syndrome Foundation, the Crnic Institute and the national Alzheimer’s Association established the Down Syndrome-Alzheimer’s Disease Investigator Program. The program has funded $2.2 million in grants to investigators around the world, including research focused on a blood test to detect those at high risk for developing Alzheimer’s.

In May 2015, Global, the Crnic Institute and the national Alzheimer’s Association convened a workshop of leading scientists who are searching for ways to share resources and speed up the search for a cure or effective Alzheimer’s treatments for people with Down syndrome. The group is working to improve data collection around the globe on people with Down syndrome and expand their inclusion in clinical trials, while ensuring that such efforts are done with sensitivity and care.

Read more about the workshop in The Washington Post’s article “Why studying Alzheimer’s in people with Down Syndrome could help everyone.”

Learn more about Global’s Alzheimer’s Initiatives

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