The HudsonAlpha Foundation sponsored a seminar on Alzheimer disease for  a crowd of more than 60 people at the Institute in August.

Rick Myers, PhD, president and science director for HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, opened the seminar with an overview of the Institute and the research in which its scientists are engaged. He also explained the concept of genomic medicine and why it’s so important to understand the specific segments of our DNA associated with specific diseases, pointing out that the more we know about the genetic underpinnings of a disease, the more likely it is researchers can find treatments and cures. For example, researchers here at HudsonAlpha have discovered 11 genes associated with ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Two of those genes are now candidates for new drug therapies.

Nick Cochran, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at HudsonAlpha working on Alzheimer and frontotemporal dementia research, discussed his work specific to neurodegenerative diseases. Current treatments for Alzheimer do little to slow the disease’s progress, so Cochran’s work is in understanding the disease and hopefully developing new treatment strategies.

Changes in the brain may be present decades before symptoms appear, but little is known about the cause. Cochran explained that studying the genetic causes of Alzheimer may lead to new treatments not only in Alzheimer but also for other neurodegenerative diseases with similar disease processes.

Brandi Medina, director of programs and education at the Alzheimer’s Association in Huntsville, closed the seminar with a presentation titled “Understanding Dementia Related Behaviors.” Medina described some of the more puzzling behaviors of Alzheimer patients and how caregivers can most effectively deal with those behaviors. She also described how the local Alzheimer’s Association can help family members better understand this disease and come up with strategies to better care for loved ones.
The response was overwhelmingly positive. HudsonAlpha Foundation plans to offer a second presentation in the near future.

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