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Next Breakthrough in Alzheimer's Research Could Happen in Texas

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center is partnering with Baylor College of Medicine and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to study Alzheimer’s and similar neurodegenerative diseases.

Together, the researchers are forming the Neurodegeneration Consortium (NDC). The researchers plan to take what they say is a new approach to studying Alzheimer’s. Most previous research has been based primarily on one theory, which posits that Alzheimer’s and the related degeneration are caused by the build-up of a specific chemical in the brain.

But NDC investigators believe recent medical research and advances indicate that many factors may contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s. They plan to study and identify these factors and hope the knowledge they gain can be used to create better diagnostics and treatments for Alzheimer’s and similar conditions.

Behind their research is a $25 million grant from the Robert A. and Renee E. Belfer Family Foundation, a New York-based charity. The grant stipulates that the consortium must raise funds to match the $25 million donated by January 2016. So far, they've raised more than $6 million.

Because Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative disorders are related to aging, improved treatment for these diseases could have a tremendous public health impact, as America’s elderly population is expected to continue growing. Older Americans—define as those aged 65 and over—currently make up 12.9 percent of the U.S. population. Population projections predict that by 2030, 19 percent of Americans will be over the age of 65.

In May, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Servicesunveiled a national plan to address Alzheimer’s, the National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA). NAPA aims to develop programs to prevent and treat Alzheimer’s by 2025. President Obama’s proposed 2013 budget includes $100 million to fund additional Alzheimer’s research, support and education.

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