Catching Alzheimer's Early: The "Dian" Trial

FLORIDA — TRIAL BACKGORUND: The Alzheimer's Association awarded its largest-ever research grant — nearly $4.2 million over four years — to the Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer's Network-Therapeutic Trials Unit (DIAN-TTU), based at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

DIAN is an international network of 11 leading research centers established in 2008 by funding from the National Institute on Aging to investigate Alzheimer's disease caused by rare, dominantly inherited genetic mutations. Children of individuals who carry one of these genetic mutations have a 50-50 chance of inheriting the gene mutation, and those who do are destined to develop the disease. Mutation carriers have a young-onset version of Alzheimer's disease; symptoms typically begin in their 30s, 40s or 50s.

DIAN now has the largest and most extensive worldwide research network investigating dominantly inherited Alzheimer's disease, and includes facilities in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia.

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At the Alzheimer's Association International Conference 2011, the DIAN team reported that, in this population, measurable brain chemistry changes appear as much as 20 years before the first detectable memory and thinking impairments. (Source:

WHY IS THE DIAN STUDY AND ITS VOLUNTEERS IMPORTANT? Dominantly inherited Alzheimer's disease—identifiable through genetic testing—develops in a pattern resembling the far more familiar late-onset form. By observing the complex interrelated biological changes that occur in gene carriers well before symptoms appear, scientists will obtain invaluable insight into how and why the disease develops, and can compare and extrapolate their findings to the much more common late-onset disease (often called "sporadic" Alzheimer's disease because it often develops without a clear family history of the disorder).

The study requires a large number of qualified study participants, both gene carriers and non-carriers, so that comprehensive research studies can be conducted and data accurately compared with the far more common late onset Alzheimer's disease.

WHAT IS THE STUDY'S GOAL? Research suggests that certain brain changes occur years before actual Alzheimer's symptoms are detected. One goal of DIAN is to study these possible changes in people who carry an Alzheimer's disease mutation. Other family members without a mutation will serve as a comparison group.

People in families in which a mutation has been identified will be tracked in order to detect physical or mental changes that might distinguish people who inherited the mutation from those who did not. Participants will have the procedures at the time of enrollment into DIAN and thereafter every one to three years, depending on the participant’s age and the age at which his or her family member began to show signs of Alzheimer’s disease. More information can be obtained by contacting one of the DIAN performance sites. (SOURCE: