Healthy woman takes part in Alzheimer's study after losing father to disease

HOUSTON – Sharon Tyler is not sick but she gets treatments at Houston Methodist Hospital every four weeks.

Sharon said when her dad died in 1990, they didn't know much about Alzheimer’s, but looking back, she's sure he had it.

“You know, when he couldn't remember mom's name in a social environment, he'd been married to my mother for 45 years … that was not daddy,” she said.

So, she takes part in a national study at Houston Methodist. It’s called the A4 study, or anti-amyloid treatment. Doctors say they are removing excess beta amyloid, a protein buildup, from her brain through a drug given in an IV.

She knows she has this buildup from MRI scans and researchers know it begins forming in the brain of people with Alzheimer’s 10 to 20 years before initial symptoms.

“We give them this medication to reduce the amount of amyloid in the brain and we can scan them again after a number of months and see whether the amount of amyloid in the brain is less,” said Dr. Joseph Masdeu, director of Houston Methodist Nantz National Alzheimer Center.

The idea behind the study is if they can get rid of the protein maybe they could get rid of the disease.

Dr. Masdeu hopes when this study is over, they will be able to prove this can delay cognitive decline and memory because, he says, medications aren't doing it well enough.

“[Medications] improve the symptoms a little bit, not even a lot, but the disease continues to worsen and we don't have any way to stop it. So, a person continues to get worse and eventually dies from the disease. So we cannot cure it, what we are aiming at with this study is to change the course of the disease. That is either to prevent it before it happens or once it has started, to stop it so the person doesn't die from it,” Dr. Masdeu said.

Sharon said she's concerned about getting the disease but that's not her only motivation to stay in the study.

“I hope that we find a cure. Fast. But if it takes a while, it takes a while, at least I will have done something for me, for my family, for mankind,” she said.

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