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Mind Warp

Two University of Colorado doctors are studying how Alzheimer’s is connected to seemingly unrelated disorders. Will they uncover a cure?

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Each year, tens of thousands of Coloradans experience the fog of Alzheimer’s disease. And despite the increase in global research since the ’80s, scientists and doctors have yet to find a cure. At Aurora’s Anschutz Medical Center, however, two sets of researchers see potential in treatments for other disorders.

Dr. Robert Schwartz, head of the Division of Geriatric Medicine, is examining the link between improved insulin resistance and brain operations such as memory and executive functions. His team is exploring how treatments that increase resistance—such as the drug pioglitazone and cardiovascular exercise—might improve cognitive function.

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Alzheimer’s patients can also look to a second encouraging project on campus: Although Down syndrome may not be as prevalent, the two ailments have a common thread. All Down syndrome patients who live long enough will develop Alzheimer’s. Dr. Huntington Potter, the new director of Alzheimer’s Disease Programs at CU’s Department of Neurology and the Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome, was the first to show that both conditions involve abnormal chromosome numbers. Potter’s research suggests that new treatments for one disorder could help those who suffer from the other. Potter is setting up a trial center this spring that will allow his team to research both conditions concurrently as well as offer trial opportunities for patients.

Both studies move Colorado toward the forefront of Alzheimer’s research. Says Potter: “This joint effort doesn’t exist anywhere else right now.”

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