WKYT Investigates: A new form of dementia

The Sanders-Brown Center on Aging sees thousands of patients a year. Those patients, and the years of information they’ve provided doctors, have led to a groundbreaking discovery.
WKYT Investigates: A new form of dementia
Published: Jul. 21, 2022 at 1:05 PM CDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Doctors at UK HealthCare are getting ready to officially open a new clinic. The Sanders-Brown Center on Aging sees thousands of patients a year. Those patients, and the years of information they’ve provided doctors, have led to a groundbreaking discovery.

“It’s amazing that looking under the microscope is sorta like being on a glass-bottomed boat. You see evidence of a whole different world,” remarks Dr. Pete Nelson, as he looks into a microscope in his lab at UK HealthCare.

More than ten years of research, tens of thousands of patients’ brains under microscopes, have led Dr. Nelson and his team to a new dementia disease, commonly known as LATE.

“LATE is a disease that produces Alzheimer’s Disease, but it’s not Alzheimer’s Disease,” explains Dr. Nelson. “In other words, you have amnesia. You can’t remember, you forget, and you have memory and thinking problems, but you don’t have the features that we see underneath the microscope that tell you that Alzheimer’s Disease itself is there.”

Dr. Nelson’s team at the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging found LATE, and now, Dr. Gregory Jicha’s team studies it. Dr. Jicha has identified a drug he believes could slow, maybe even stop LATE. The drug is currently being used for heart conditions. He’s running clinical trials on it, with his dementia patients in Lexington.

“While we have medicines that we can use for the symptoms, we need medicines that actually address the disease itself and that’s what we’re looking for. That’s the focus of all of our efforts here,” notes Dr. Jicha.

The drug Dr. Jicha is using on patients with LATE is legal everywhere except the United States. His hope is that his clinical trials will produce enough evidence to convince the CDC and FDA to authorize the drug here.

“We need to advance the science, develop these new medicines and create a day when Alzheimer’s and LATE are no longer feared by the aging population because they’re medically manageable,” says Dr. Jicha.

Currently, there are no treatments, and no cure for dementia. The center is always looking for research volunteers. You can sign up online or by visiting the UK Sanders-Brown Center on Aging’s website.

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