Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine will be part of a multicenter trial that will test for the first time whether a drug that treats brain plaques can prevent later development of memory loss in Alzheimer's Disease.

Studies have shown that brain changes in Alzheimer's begin many years before disease onset, and that all patients have deposits of beta amyloid in their brains, said Oscar Lopez, M.D., professor of neurology, Pitt School of Medicine, and co-director of the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center (ADRC). He is the principal investigator of the Pittsburgh arm of the Anti-Amyloid Treatment in Asymptomatic Alzheimer's (A4) study.

"This is the first study to assess whether an experimental antibody that counteracts amyloid will have long-term impact that can prevent Alzheimer's," said Dr. Lopez, who noted that many people have beta amyloid deposits in the brain but never develop dementia. "We suspect that these plaques have a role in disease development, but it's not been proven that they affect memory and cognition. The A4 study could shed light on that."

For A4, the researchers will perform a baseline PET scan on otherwise healthy volunteers, ages 65 to 85, to determine if brain plaques are present. If so, participants will be randomly assigned to receive monthly intravenous infusions of the experimental anti-amyloid antibody or a placebo. All participants will have regular assessments and blood tests for three years.

"Because of the nature of the disease, a friend or family member also must be willing to answer questions annually about how the participant is doing at home," Dr. Lopez explained. "This study could help us find ways of predicting who might be at greater risk for progressing to Alzheimer's."

People who are interested in participating should call study coordinator Katy Orchowski Zorich at 412-624-2730 or email her at