Wisconsin Alzheimer’s study celebrates 20 years of research

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(WTVO) — A landmark Alzheimer’s study celebrated over 20 years of research.

The Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer’s Prevention Study, or WRAP, started November 2001 at UW. Scientists follow people with family histories of Alzheimer’s to learn more about the disease.

Participants come in every two years for a set of cognitive tests aimed at developing a data set, which allows researchers to spot patterns that may be linked to developing Alzheimer’s.

Dr. Sterling Johnson, WRAP Study Chief Investigator, said the success is not just a result of the research team.

“It’s also a testament to the dedication of our participants,” Johnson said. “It’s only through their hard work, their perseverance, and their belief in us as researchers, that this study would have succeeded…Having lots of people in the study who are dedicated and who stayed with it, and having those measurements over time, is key to generating the knowledge that we need.”

Since November of 2001, more than 1,700 adults with a family history of the disease have taken part.

“We are learning that this disease begins many, many years before the symptoms, that’s one major thing that we’ve learned,” Johnson said.

The goal of the cognitive tests is to help researchers learn more about how Alzheimer’s develops in the brain.

“This is going to help us predict when they might get their symptoms, and by pairing that up with their lifestyle, with their health histories, we can really try to understand what puts a person at-risk, and what makes them resilient,” Johnson said.

Katy Schmidt has participated for the past 14 years. She started volunteering shortly after her mother died from Alzheimer’s.

“I thought this is a way that I can honor my mom, and maybe add a little bit to the body of science and potentially spare another generation from watching their loved one wear away like she did,” Schmidt said.

Both Schmidt and Johnson hope that the study might someday contribute to a cure.

“We can provide guidance and knowledge and discoveries about when this disease starts, and when might be the right time to intervene with a treatment,” Johnson said.

The drug Aduhelm was approved by the FDA earlier this year for use as an Alzheimer’s treatment. Johnson said it has not been as effective as experts initially hoped, but mentioned that similar medications are currently in development, which should do more to help patients.

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