Alzheimer's Disease

Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease

An estimated 5.7 million Americans of all ages are living with Alzheimer’s dementia in 2018. This includes an estimated 5.5 million people 65 and older and about 200,000 individuals younger than 65 who have early-onset Alzheimer’s. While the risk for Alzheimer’s disease increases with age, approximately five percent of Alzheimer’s patients begin to exhibit symptoms before age 65.

Faculty Expert

Liana G. Apostolova, MD

Liana G. Apostolova, MD

Barbara and Peer Baekgaard Professor of Alzheimer's Disease Research

Longitudinal Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease Study (LEADS)

Led by IU School of Medicine’s Liana Apostolova, MD, the Longitudinal Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease Study (LEADS) compares baseline and longitudinal cognitive and functional characteristics of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease to late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. LEADS aims to fill the gap in research for those with early-onset Alzheimer’s to better identify optimal outcome measures for clinical trials and, eventually, treatment of this devastating disease.

Specifically, the team of investigators at IU School of Medicine with an elite team of researchers from around the United States are studying differences in clinical presentation, disease progression, levels of amyloid and tau and changes in brain gray matter between the early- and late-onset groups, and normal controls.

Although data indicates that the early- and late-onset forms of Alzheimer’s disease are fundamentally the same, there are differences on which LEADS will focus. The early-onset form appears to act more aggressively and to progress faster. In addition, the initial symptoms among early-onset patients often differ from the memory decline that is the typical initial symptom of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, she said.

Clinical Research Participation

The LEADS program will enroll 400 early-onset Alzheimer’s patients along with 100 healthy “control” participants. The early-onset participants will be patients with mild cognitive impairment or mild Alzheimer’s and who have been found to have beta amyloid protein in the brain using PET scans or positron emission topography. The buildup of the beta amyloid protein has been associated with the development of Alzheimer’s.

The participants will undergo comprehensive examinations including cognitive tests, MRI and PET scans, collection of spinal fluid, DNA testing and more. They will be tested again in 12 months and in two years. PET imaging will be used to measure amyloid and tau, both major proteins associated with Alzheimers.

Hope for the Future of Alzheimer’s Treatment

The clinical data and the biological specimens collected by IU School of Medicine investogators and their partners nationwide should enable scientists to discover additional genetic contributors to Alzheimer’s development, as well as new clinical and cognitive outcome measures for use in Alzheimer’s disease research, diagnosis and treatment.