UW–Madison Alzheimer’s disease researchers gather in Amsterdam at international conference

Badgers joined with tulips this July, as more than 50 Alzheimer’s disease researchers from the University of Wisconsin–Madison presented at the 2023 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) in Amsterdam, Netherlands. The annual event is the world’s largest forum for dementia research and this year hosted 7,000 in-person attendees for a hybrid event held July 16–20, 2023. 

Students and faculty from UW–Madison participated in a variety of ways, including as scientific reviewers, session moderators, oral presenters, and poster presenters. The majority of presenters were from Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC) and Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute (WAI).

Four UW–Madison researchers were selected to give oral presentations during the conference, including:

Campus experts also presented on a wide range of research, including:

  • A study examining the impact of community-based memory screenings as an approach to remove barriers for Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis and care, which found that partnering with community organizations to provide cognitive screenings helped facilitate evaluations and dementia diagnoses
  • A study looking at how representative the Wisconsin ADRC’s Clinical Core registry is compared to the Wisconsin state population
  • A study examining associations between preclinical Alzheimer’s disease and gut microbial metagenomic profiles
  • A study looking at how depression impacts the association between age and amyloid burden in an at-risk group
  • A study looking at associations between physical activity and cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers for neurodegeneration, neuroinflammation, and Alzheimer’s disease

See a full list of presentations from UW–Madison researchers here.

AAIC 2023 Conference Highlights

The forum shared updates from around the globe. A few of the notable findings presented included results from a clinical trial of the monoclonal antibody donanemab, the development of a finger prick blood test to detect Alzheimer’s disease, the role of hearing aids in dementia prevention, and a study of links between region and rates of Alzheimer’s disease. Summaries of these items are included below. The majority of presentations and papers presented at AAIC are posted on the conference website.

Results from donanemab Phase 3 clinical trials

Final results from the Phase 3 clinical trial of donanemab showed that the treatment significantly slowed cognitive and functional decline. The study, called TRAILBLAZER-ALZ 2, found that the decline slowed by roughly 35% for individuals with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or early dementia.

Nathaniel Chin, MD, co-wrote an editorial for the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on donanemab and the new era of Alzheimer’s disease therapies following the release of the phase 3 results. In the editorial, Chin and geriatricians Eric Widera, MD, and Sharon Brangman, MD, said, “The modest benefits would likely not be questioned by patients, clinicians, or payers if amyloid antibodies were low risk, inexpensive, and simple to administer. However, they are none of these.”

Blood detection of AD demonstrated in finger prick test

A finger prick blood test shows promise in the ability to detect Alzheimer’s disease. Blood tests are already being implemented in some clinical trials for further verification of their effectiveness and for screening potential participants. In some cases, these blood tests are providing similar information to “gold standard” testing, like brain imaging scans and cerebrospinal fluid analysis (lumbar puncture). The development of finger prick blood testing, which requires less blood collection and is more affordable, has significant implications for the scalability of blood diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers at the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer’s Prevention (WRAP) are currently studying blood samples as a marker for Alzheimer’s detection and investigating the development of the finger prick test kits.  

Hearing aids may cut risk of cognitive decline

A study of over 900 individuals showed that hearing interventions, such as hearing aids and audiological counseling, could help reduce risk of cognitive decline by 48% for adults with an increased risk for dementia.

Where are Alzheimer’s disease rates highest in the United States?

A first-of-its kind study found that older adults in the eastern and southeastern United States have the highest rates of Alzheimer’s disease in the country. Examining over 3000 counties across the 50 U.S. states, researchers hope that these estimates could help public health officials develop new, region-specific strategies for caring for people with Alzheimer’s disease.

More details on the conference can be found on the AAIC website.