Alzheimer’s Foundation funds NYU Winthrop research for new treatment

The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America gave a $100,000 grant to NYU Winthrop Hospital to research the underlying causes of Alzheimer’s disease and develop new treatments.

Dr. Allison Reiss, head of the Inflammation Section at NYU Winthrop’s Research Institute, has led a team of researchers working with Alzheimer’s patients for the last five years, much of which was funded by an earlier AFA grant. 

With the new funding, Reiss and her team will re-engineer human cells to act like brain neurons, creating what they believe to be the closest possible approximation of actual brain behavior. Due to the complexity and inaccessibility of the human brain, scientists traditionally have had trouble developing new treatments. But the method Reiss will use requires only a blood sample, making the research process much easier.

The team will look at genetic differences between healthy individuals and patients with the disease to see if Alzheimer’s brain neurons can essentially be “reprogrammed” to behave like healthy ones.

“Examining these particles from brain neurons is like conducting detective work, since they provide clues as to what is actually occurring in the brain itself,” Reiss said in a statement. She thinks that NYU Winthrop’s approach to researching Alzheimer’s could prove to be one of the most successful methods of evaluating and advancing research into the disease. Reiss also noted that only a handful of medicines have been approved to treat Alzheimer’s in the last two decades, with a majority of more than 100 clinical trials halted.

AFA President Charles Fuschillo, Jr. says the number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease is expected to nearly triple over the next 40 years, making the need for a disease-modifying treatment more urgent.

The research team led by Reiss is comprised of Dr. Josh DeLeon, director of cardiovascular research at NYU Winthrop and associate professor of medicine at NYU Long Island School of Medicine; Dr. Irving Gomolin, clinical professor and chief of geriatric medicine; Dr. Aaron Pinkhasov, chair of behavioral health at NYU Winthrop and clinical professor of psychiatry; and Dr. Lora J. Kasselman, assistant professor, NYU Long Island School of Medicine.

Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, and the only one in the top 10 without a cure or disease-modifying treatment, according to NYU Winthrop.  

Alzheimer’s currently affects more than 5 million Americans, including approximately 50,000 on Long Island, according to NYU Winthrop. As the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, it is the only disease in the top 10 without a cure or disease-modifying treatment.

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