KU Medical Center gets grant for Alzheimer’s research

KHI News Service

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Researchers at the University of Kansas Medical Center have received $3 million from the National Institutes of Health to study whether exercise can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

It will be one of the first such studies in the country, KU officials said today.

The researchers aim to enroll healthy adults age 65 and older in a new Alzheimer’s prevention program. Those determined to be at higher risk for the disease would exercise on a treadmill regularly over the course of a year. Brain scans would then be used to measure whether the participants were at higher or lower risk.

“This is the first time we can really test the impact of exercise on prevention of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Jeffrey Burns, a neurology professor at the medical center and associate director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Center.

Burns and others at KU’s Alzheimer’s center have worked for years determining how exercise affects the brain. But the new study would be one of the first trials to examine whether exercise can potentially prevent Alzheimer’s, according to KU officials.

More than 5 million Americans have the disease, which is the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S.

“Prevention of the disease is a whole new area for Alzheimer’s research,” Burns says. “We’ve never really been able to identify the risks like we can today.”

KU is recruiting healthy adults older than 65 to participate in the trial. Those interested in learning may call 913-588-0555.

Joe Gittemeier, 71, of Prairie Village, will be the first person enrolled in the study.

He said he was interested because he has seen the effects of the disease firsthand.

“Quite a number of people in our family have had Alzheimer’s disease,” Gittemeier said, including his father, his brother and his sister. “It is a terrible disease. I was interested in helping not only so I could get more exercise, but also to add to their body of knowledge and hopefully to help other people.”

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