NP forum encourages turning ‘fear into action’ on Alzheimer’s

NP forum encourages turning ‘fear into action’ on Alzheimer’s

NORTH PROVIDENCE – The Louisquisset Condo Association partnered with Butler Hospital’s Memory and Aging Program for a forum to educate the public on Alzheimer’s disease and new breakthroughs in research on Nov. 19 at the North Providence Assembly of God Church on Lexington Avenue.

The Memory and Aging Program at Butler, a member of Care New England and a major teaching affiliate of the Alpert Medical School of Brown University, hosted the presentation in partnership with the Louisquisset unit owners, to bring Alzheimer’s awareness, education, and research opportunities to the town, according to Louisquisset resident Karen Bell.

Eligible attendees were invited to complete a GeneMatch cheek swab on site for Alzheimer’s research following the presentation. The “swab party” followed a similar successful event at WaterFire Providence earlier this fall.

Stephen Salloway, director of the Memory and Aging Program at Butler and Martin Zucker, Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Brown University, presented on Alzheimer’s disease and new breakthroughs in research he said could lead to conquering the frightening disease.

GeneMatch is a national program led by the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute using genetic testing through free cheek swab kits to match volunteers with research opportunities. 

Salloway and Zucker said the program is needed to engage the public “in a major way” to encourage people to participate in research and help move the field forward. They said GeneMatch could be a “game-changer” for Alzheimer’s research.

“Those who attended found it most informative and wanted to engage in some of the exciting and promising research that is being pioneered right here in Rhode Island for those who are of increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s dementia but who have not yet experienced its cognitive decline,” said Bell.

One of the most important things anyone can do to “transform fear into action” is to let others know about the cutting-edge research being done here in the state and how they can contribute without it costing them a penny, she said.

Bell said she and some of her neighbors at Louisquisset with the same passion to increase awareness about the program hosted the event because of its importance to residents of the area.

She said they were grateful to have Mayor Charles Lombardi also understand its importance and attend the event. Lombardi highlighted the importance of education about both the risks of Alzheimer’s and hope for its eradication, encouraging everyone who attended to pass on what they learned to others.

GeneMatch identifies a large group of people interested in participating in Alzheimer’s studies based in part on their genetic information. It only collects information about which copies of a gene, known as the APOE gene, one has, and does not store DNA for future testing.

At the forum, Salloway shared how brain changes associated with loss of cognitive function begin some 10 to 15 years before any sign of the disease, so early detection is key to treatment.

Salloway is pioneering better detection through examination of patients’ retinas. In addition, blood tests should also be available in the near future.

Most importantly, there are a number of new medications that appear to be reversing the accumulation of deposits of protein in the brain and within nerve cells.

Salloway’s presentation was followed by a talk by Athena Lavoie, who explained how people can test for the APOE gene and contribute to studies now being conducted.Anyone wishing to be tested was able to do so at the forum, and organizers are encouraging others to also get tested.

For more inforamtion, call 401-455-6403 or visit www.butler.org/memory .