NTX Magazine Volume 3 - Page 42

Industry Spotlight Education early Detection UNT Health Science Center researchers Sid O’Bryant (left), Leigh Johnson (center) and James Hall are helping identify risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease. 40 It’s Just About Time T ime slips away for people with Alzheimer’s disease, and University of North Texas Health Science Center researchers understand this. Several studies are underway to diagnose, identify and predict those with the disease. Leigh Johnson, Ph.D., in collaboration with James Hall, Ph.D., and Sid O’Bryant, Ph.D., all of UNTHSC, have discovered that a specific subset of depressed patients are at greater risk of developing mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or Alzheimer’s. While a 30-point questionnaire called the Geriatric Depression Scale is already used by many primary care physicians to determine whether their patients suffer from depression, the UNTHSC team found that positive answers to five specific questions on this scale correlated to an increased risk of cognitive problems such as MCI and Alzheimer’s. Memory problems, feeling blue or worthless, frequently crying or trouble concentrating were the five questions addressed in the study. Hall, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at UNTHSC, led another study identifying cholesterol as the major predictor of neuropsychiatric symptoms among men with Alzheimer’s disease. Apathy, depression, psychosis, agitation and sleep disturbances are major factors in placing patients in nursing homes, as well as the primary cause of emotional and physical stress for caregivers. However, it was found that men with dementia who have lower cholesterol are less likely to experience these symptoms. Currently, the only accurate measure of whether someone has Alzheimer’s disease is by brain autopsy; however, O’Bryant is lead investigator in developing a blood test to measure the presence of key proteins that indicate whether a patient has the disease. Researchers are hopeful that a blood test that could be as routine as exams for high cholesterol or blood