Primary Press Contacts

Susan Ristine
TARCC Executive Assistant
cell: 512-964-9669


Press Kit

Resources for reporters

(under construction)

TARCC online media kit (coming soon)

Alzheimer’s Research Experts
by TARCC Institution
Resources For The Media
Staff and researchers with the Texas Alzheimer’s Research and Care Consortium are available to answer your questions about the latest developments in Alzheimer’s research in Texas.  Our Alzheimer’s researchers also can provide local expert reaction to any national or international breaking news related to Alzheimer’s disease.  To coordinate the quickest response to your questions, contact Susan Ristine This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Latest Media Coverage

9.13.2010 Protein-Based Biomarkers in Blood Serum Could Classify Individuals With Alzheimer's Disease 
Archives of Neurology, JAMA
An initial analysis suggests that biomarkers in blood serum can be combined with clinical information to accurately classify patients with Alzheimer’s disease, according to a report in the September issue of Archives of Neurology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.
7.25.2010 Texas Scientists on Verge of Alzheimer's Blood Test
Houston Chronicle
Todd Ackerman reports the latest on how TARC scientists say exam would help millions confirm & fight the disease
7.16.2010 Alzheimer's Screen May Be Possible
Lubbock Avalanche-Journal
Sid O'Bryant, an assistant professor of neurology, has published the first step in developing a blood test for Alzheimer's disease.

Press Releases

Texas Council on Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders announces Texas A&M Health Science Center membership in Alzheimer’s consortium

Press contacts:

Texas Council on Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders
Debbie Hanna, Chair
Texas A&M Health Science Center
Scott Maier, Director of Media Relations

AUSTIN, TX (Feb. 1) – The Texas Council on Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders (TCADRD) announced Friday that the Texas A&M Health Science Center (TAMHSC) has been elected to full membership and participation in the prestigious Texas Alzheimer’s Research and Care Consortium (TARCC).

The TAMHSC will provide expertise in research, care and education that complements existing consortium members – Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, the University of North Texas Health Science Center, The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

“This is a great day for our medical research institution to have a role in the advancement of care and cure for this terrible disease that affects so many Texans,” said Clint P. Hackney, TCADRD vice chair and Texas A&M University alumnus.

TAMHSC faculty currently are studying Alzheimer’s development and working on markers for earlier detection, as well as testing specific drugs to prevent or eliminate the disease. Research also is being done on the impact from lifestyle and the environment, outside of genetics and biology.

“We are pleased to be part of the Texas Alzheimer’s Research and Care Consortium and share our knowledge and expertise,” said David S. Carlson, Ph.D., TAMHSC vice president for research and dean of the School of Graduate Studies. “Alzheimer’s not only affects the individual but also puts a tremendous strain on caregivers and our society, and our faculty are committed to finding how to prevent, treat and perhaps even eradicate this devastating disease.”

Debbie Hanna, TCADRD chair, said the addition of the TAMHSC is an important and responsible step for the state-funded consortium.

“This institution brings much strength to our group that will compliment and value add in many ways,” Hanna said. “I am very proud to be a part of this decision.”

About the TARCC

Since the first state funding for Alzheimer's research in Texas history was approved in 2005 by the 79th Texas Legislature, $18 million has been appropriated to fund the TARCC. TARCC has now recruited more than 2,500 volunteers (more than 700 of whom are Hispanic) statewide to participate in cutting-edge research to isolate and identify:

  • Genetic factors associated with the onset of Alzheimer's disease, and
  • Biological markers for inflammation, cardiovascular disease, risk factors for heart disease and failure to control blood sugar (diabetes) that impact the development and progression of Alzheimer's disease.

TARCC seeks almost $10 million in funding for the 2013 biennium to support Alzheimer’s research and education initiatives by the consortium.

TARCC has established a large shared Texas Alzheimer's DataBank that includes standardized clinical, neuropsychiatric, genetic and blood biomarker data on Alzheimer's patients, individuals diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment and healthy control subjects who are seen at each of the TARCC member sites. Importantly, samples and data from TARCC participants are collected annually at follow up visits. The longitudinal nature of the TARCC study is a key strength, allowing analysis of disease progression.

Consortium members will also have access to research funding through the Darrell K Royal Research Fund for Alzheimer’s Disease is a designated/fiscal sponsorship fund of the Dallas Foundation, a 501c3 public charity.

A blood-based test for Alzheimer's
Local researcher lands federal grant for Alzheimer's study

Sid O'Bryant at UNT Science Center, holds a vial of blood in the lab. O'Bryant recently was awarded a $625,000 National Institute on Aging grant for his blood screening work.

Sid O'Bryant at UNT Science Center, holds a vial of blood in the lab. O'Bryant recently was awarded a $625,000 National Institute on Aging grant for his blood screening work.

Carolyn Poirot

Texas researchers have developed a blood test to screen for Alzheimer’s disease, and last month Sid O’Bryant at the University of North Texas Health Science Center was awarded a $625,000 federal grant to further validate the screening test and demonstrate its accuracy against autopsy-confirmed Alzheimer’s.

O’Bryant led the team from the Texas Alzheimer’s Research and Care Consortium, which developed the screening tool over the last seven years. He joined UNTHSC’s Institute for Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease Research in January and received the federal grant in April from the National Institute on Aging, a part of the National Institutes on Health.

The new test uses biomarker proteins in blood serum, combined with clinical evaluation, to classify patients with Alzheimer’s. It already has proven 88 to 96 percent accurate – as accurate as the much more expensive, invasive and technologically complex cerebral spinal fluid analysis that is currently used to diagnose the disease.

“This is designed to be a front-line screening test to tell primary care physicians it is time to get the patient to a specialty clinic,” O’Bryant said. “It can pick up very early stages of Alzheimer’s [often before patients and physicians identify symptoms] and could be part of an annual physical for any older person who wants it.”

“Although further validation is required, the blood test, as part of a multitiered screening tool, holds the potential to change geriatric medicine globally,” the research consortium said in a website announcement about the new test. “This test could be affordably given on an annual basis to all individuals over 65 years of age.”

In addition to getting patients taking Alzheimer’s drugs earlier, when they are most effective, the blood test could also be used as a cost-effective way to follow the progression of Alzheimer’s and determine more quickly and easily which medication is most effective for a particular patient at a particular time in the course of the disease.

Current state-of-the-art cerebrospinal fluid analysis with neuroimaging requires a lumbar puncture and MRI or PET scan, which costs $1,000 to $5,000, depending on the imaging technique used, O’Bryant said.

And some patients may not consent to a spinal tap or be able to undergo neuroimaging because they have a pacemaker or other health issue, he pointed out.

His new screening test, which works across both blood serum and plasma, “should not cost more than $200 a pop,” he said. And blood can be collected at any clinic or in-home visit.

Just about a year ago, the accuracy of his blood-based screening test was confirmed in an independent study by the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative. It is the first such test to be cross-validated in independent samples of patients with and without the disease.

At this time, a final, definitive diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease can still only be confirmed with an autopsy.

“It takes a lot of steps before a new test can be approved [by the Food and Drug Administration] for clinical use, but hopefully within five to seven years this may be in the hands of local clinicians,” O’Bryant said in early May.

The research consortium was funded by the Legislature in late 2005. It took six more years for O’Bryant to get funding from the National Institutes of Health.

“The NIH grant is something of a vindication because for 20 years researchers have been looking for a simple but accurate blood test for Alzheimer’s, and we have had failure after failure after failure. We took a new approach to an old problem and have come up with a blood test that works,” he said.

The consortium involves physicians and researchers at UNTHSC in Fort Worth and Texas Tech University HSC in Lubbock, the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and the University of Texas HSC in San Antonio.

UNTHSC will work with the Mayo Clinic and researchers in Germany and Australia during the next two years to determine whether the blood-screening test is as accurate as autopsy.

O’Bryant said he also is working on an NIH grant proposal to study Alzheimer’s disease in the Mexican-American population.

World’s 1st Alzheimer’s Prevention Trial for Healthy People

The Alzheimer’s Prevention Initiative (API) announced the first-ever prevention trial in cognitively healthy individuals who are destined to develop Alzheimer’s disease because of their genetic history. This groundbreaking study—the first to investigate whether an anti-amyloid treatment can stave off the disease—will span two countries and help launch a new era of prevention research in the urgent fight against Alzheimer’s.

This is a huge effort combining the talents and resources of the top organizations in the field of Alzheimer's research. Collaborators include powerhouses such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Banner Alzheimer’s Institute (BAI), University of Antioquia in Colombia and Genentech, a member of the Roche Group.

The $100 million trial is the cornerstone of the new API international collaborative. The API was formed to accelerate the evaluation of promising but unproven prevention therapies. It will study an experimental anti-amyloid antibody treatment called crenezumab in approximately 300 people from an extraordinarily large extended family in Colombia, who share a rare genetic mutation that typically triggers Alzheimer’s symptoms around age 45. The trial will also include a smaller number of individuals in the United States. The API team will collaborate with researchers from the NIH-supported Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer’s Network (DIAN) to identify and recruit the U.S. participants.

The trial is designed to determine whether the drug can reduce participants’ chances of developing the disease’s disabling and irreversible symptoms, preserve memory and thinking abilities, and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s biomarkers.  Drs. Eric M. Reiman and Pierre N. Tariot from the Phoenix-based BAI lead the broader initiative, and they also will be leading the trial in close cooperation with Genentech’s research and clinical team and a Colombian team headed by Dr. Francisco Lopera of Grupo de Neurociencias de Antioquia at the University of Antioquia. Together, these three groups designed the study with input from other prominent scientists and NIH and regulatory officials.

If crenezumab is shown to sustain memory and cognition in people certain to develop Alzheimer’s, prevention trials could be designed to test it and other anti-amyloid drugs in a larger segment of the population. If the treatment’s effects on brain imaging and other biological measurements of the disease are shown to predict its clinical benefit, the study could establish a much more rapid way to test future therapies.

Dr. Reiman, BAI Executive Director, said,

“We are grateful for the chance to evaluate such a promising prevention treatment.”

“We have tried to design the study in a way that might bring the field closer to ending Alzheimer’s before another generation is lost.”

The study will be supported with five-year NIH funding expected to total $16 million, as well as a BAI commitment of $15 million in philanthropic funds. Genentech will contribute the major share of funding, in addition to providing study drug and clinical and operational expertise integral to the design and conduct of the study. Given the importance of the trial, data and findings will be shared publicly after its completion to help the entire Alzheimer’s research community find faster ways to test promising prevention therapies.

Richard H. Scheller, PhD, Executive Vice President, Research and Early Development at Genentech, shared his excitement. He commented,

“Genentech is very excited to be a part of this landmark effort.”

“If the study demonstrates that we can prevent the disease in this special group of patients, it may pave the way to preventing Alzheimer’s in the general population.”

About 5.4 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s today, a number expected to top 7.7 million by 2030. Globally, the disease and other dementias are expected to affect nearly 66 million by then.

The study represents a marked shift in researchers’ approach to detecting, treating and ultimately preventing Alzheimer’s. Many in the clinical and scientific community believe that by the time memory begins to slip and confusion and other thinking problems emerge, too much damage may already have occurred for some treatments, such as those focusing on amyloid, to be effective. They suspect that these potential therapies must instead be started before the onset of symptoms.

BAI researchers already have shown how advanced brain imaging, biomarkers and other measurements can identify and track subtle Alzheimer’s-associated changes in healthy people at genetic risk for the disease many years before its first clinical signs appear. They proposed using these tools in a prevention trial that would not require a lengthy wait for those symptoms.

The new study will test what is often called the amyloid hypothesis, which suggests that accumulation of the protein amyloid in the brain plays a key role in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Preclinical studies indicate that crenezumab, an antibody therapy that Genentech is developing in collaboration with Swiss biotech company AC Immune SA, works by binding to amyloid proteins and clearing them from the brain. It has been studied in both healthy individuals and people with Alzheimer’s and currently is being evaluated in a Phase II clinical study in patients with mild to moderate symptoms. No significant safety issues have been detected to date. The drug was selected for this prevention trial with guidance from an expert advisory panel.

Dr. Lopera is "in the trenches" at Medellín. There, he has followed generations of the families since the early 1980s. He explained,

“The trial represents big hope for the people here.”

“For those with the genetic mutation, it is a chance to modify their destiny. For those who are not carriers, it is a chance to save loved ones. They all want a far different future.”

Among the Colombian as well as U.S. participants, crenezumab will be administered to individuals 30 and older with normal cognitive function. Participants in the double-blind, placebo-controlled trial will receive an injection of crenezumab or placebo at set intervals for up to five years. Researchers will use advanced imaging techniques, cerebrospinal fluid tests and sensitive cognitive measures to monitor whether the accumulation of amyloid and other tell-tale proteins in the brain is reduced, whether brain size and function is maintained, and, most importantly, whether mental performance is preserved.

To avoid signaling the genetic status of participants, most of whom do not want to know if they have the mutation, the study will include relatives who are non-carriers and will receive the placebo.

Dr. Tariot, BAI Director, stated,

“We are cognizant of the responsibility that we face, not just to the scientific community but to the families who will be involved in our work.”

“Yet the possibilities ahead are tremendous. If this approach to fighting Alzheimer’s is successful, it has the potential to transform all future prevention and treatment research and to herald the beginning of the end of this devastating disease."


Texas Alzheimer’s Research and Care Consortium

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