The John Douglas French Alzheimer’s Foundation has funded a groundbreaking initiative—A California Comprehensive Consortium for Alzheimer’s—to gain new understandings and insights into the causal mechanisms leading to Alzheimer’s disease (AD). This consortium, under the direction of distinguished JDFAF Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Bruce Miller, brings together brilliant investigators from UCLA, UCSF, UCSB and Stanford to collect and analyze blood and skin samples from 200 patients with mild Alzheimer's.

Simultaneously these patients, all of whom will be studied and characterized at UCSF by Drs. Gil Rabinovici, Marilu Gorno-Tempini, and Bill Seeley, will undergo comprehensive and novel cognitive and neuroimaging analyses, designed to better understand the variable pathways attacked by AD, while defining distinctive subtypes of AD, based upon anatomy. Working with these anatomic subtypes, Drs. Dan Geschwind and Giovanni Coppola at UCLA will search the entire human genome for changes in genes that may predispose these patients to dementia.

Dr. Ken Kosik at UCSB will determine the patients’ gene expression, while Dr. Tony Wyss-Coray at Stanford will study protein expression patterns in the group. Finally, Dr. Yadong Huang at UCSF will convert skin cells from these patients into neurons that will be investigated for genetic and proteomic subtypes and response to specific drugs. These samples will be banked and then shared with investigators around the world. 

This unique consortium brings together some of the best clinical and basic scientists in the world to break down AD into different subtypes. The study hypothesizes that what we call Alzheimer's is broken up into distinctive subsets of patients with different causes for their cognitive impairment. It takes a broad but deep look at AD using techniques never before applied to this complex illness.  The samples generated will be a resource for scientists around the world who can help to push forward new understanding of the heterogeneity of AD while simultaneously generating new molecular pathways from which medications will be found.

Most recently, in April 2015, The John Douglas French Alzheimer's Foundation funded a one-year study by Aimee Kao, MD, PhD, a scientist/neurologist at UCSF. Dr. Kao  studies the links between inflammation and neurodegeneration. Her studies span from animal models, to humans and Dr. Kao investigates the role of a protein called progranulin in neurodegeneration.  Progranulin protects the brain from inflammation, and when this protein is low, individuals are more susceptible to frontotemporal dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.  Additionally, when the body is deficient in progranulin, it is broken down into small proteins called granulins that lead to a pro-inflammatory state.  Dr. Kao is evaluating a variety of ways to prevent the inflammatory cascade related to granulins and hopes to find new molecules to protect individuals at risk for AD and related conditions.  Her novel research may offer new approaches to the prevention of dementia. 

The John Douglas French Alzheimer's Foundation, with your support, continues to lead in encouraging novel thinking, collaboration and urgency in the effort to find a cure for AD.