Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer’s Research

Faculty researchers studying Alzheimer’s disease at Indiana University School of Medicine perform molecular, genetic and imaging-based analysis of patients, looking for biomarkers that may predict onset of the disease and present new therapeutic targets. These investigators are examining 25 leading candidate genes while pursuing exciting new avenues for research and discovering new facets of the disease.

Among active research are studies investigating noninvasive measurements of brain architecture that give a quantitative readout during memory tasks patients are asked to perform while in the scanner, the Longitudinal Early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease Study (LEADS), and more. These studies are just beginning to scratch the surface of possibilities, pairing genetic and imaging data to better understand the disease and its progression.

Imaging, data science and translational research

Collaborative Research

Collaborative Research

IU School of Medicine is home to a robust, productive and renowned researcher centers, labs and programs that collaborate to advance research on Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
Clinical Trials

Clinical Trials

Successful clinical trials rely on both healthy individuals and people with Alzheimer’s disease to identify symptoms and genetic markers that indicate the disease.

Alzheimer's Disease Research Objectives

Still, very little is known about what goes wrong in a person’s DNA to cause dementia. The federal government has designated IU School of Medicine as the national site that collects blood, DNA, tissue and other samples from tens of thousands of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease, providing a wealth of information for scientists to mine. The school must hire additional laboratory and physician researchers to analyze these data and identify the root causes of dementia, because unless we know how dementia starts, we can’t begin to formulate effective solutions.

Physician scientists now know that Alzheimer’s disease begins to develop about 20 years prior to the onset of dementia. The current thinking is that available treatments have largely been unsuccessful because they are given when the disease is too advanced. Investigators at IU School of Medicine envision that Alzheimer’s disease will one day be screened for routinely, just as cholesterol tests are regularly administered to detect potential heart problems decades before a heart attack may occur. Similar tests for Alzheimer’s disease must be developed.

IU School of Medicine has played a major role in bringing some of today’s most commonly prescribed drugs to market—and must continue to be a frontrunner in the development and testing of new drugs. To do this, the school needs additional expertise so that when the genetic causes are identified, physician investigators can test new interventions. These would include not only new drugs but also lifestyle interventions such as exercise and cognitive training to slow or prevent dementia.

Areas of Expertise

Early-Onset Alzheimer’s

A rare form of dementia, early-onset Alzheimer’s affects individuals under the age of 65 and accounts for approximately 200 thousand of the 5.7 million Americans living with the disease, but very little is known about it. IU School of Medicine researchers are looking to discover scientific understanding of the disease in hope to be able to detect and treat patients at an earlier stage.

Diagnostic Imaging

IU School of Medicine investigators are at the forefront of improving imaging technology to better study the biology of Alzheimer’s disease in patients. Utilizing advanced MRI scanners, PET imaging and other technologies, these researchers are able to provide a non-invasive window to visualize the brains of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, as well as those who may be at risk.

Precision Medicine

Previous approaches to treatment of prevention of Alzheimer’s disease may have proven unsuccessful due to the singular focus on one indicator of the disease, such as the proteins amyloid or tau. IU School of Medicine’s approach focuses on altering the body’s immune system to positively impact all three biomarkers with the goal to identify new methods to slowing the disease to allow patients a longer, more fulfilling life.

Genetics

Rather than a uniform disease, it is likely that Alzheimer’s is a series of related diseases that arise when there is an issue with an individual’s genetic code. To cure or slow its progression, investigators are working to discover which genes put people at risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease and to protect them. In most cases, there is not one culprit gene, rather several genes with subtle variations interacting with one another.

Research Faculty

Faculty investigators specializing in Alzheimer’s disease research at IU school of Medicine receive generous grant awards and international support to advance their studies. These physician scientists are renowned worldwide for their expertise in this critical area of medical research.

Liana G. Apostolova, MD

Liana G. Apostolova, MD

Barbara and Peer Baekgaard Professor of Alzheimer's Disease Research
Bruce T. Lamb, PhD

Bruce T. Lamb, PhD

Executive Director, Paul and Carole Stark Neurosciences Research Institute
Andrew J. Saykin, PSYD

Andrew J. Saykin, PSYD

Director, Center for Neuroimaging
Tatiana Foroud, PhD

Tatiana Foroud, PhD

Chair, Department of Medical & Molecular Genetics