Virginia Based Alzheimer’s Research Brings Hope to Families

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 6 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s. An estimated 6.7 million Americans age 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s in 2023. Seventy-three percent are age 75 or older. About 1 in 9 people age 65 and older (or 10.7%) has Alzheimer’s.


Doctors and researchers are still trying to understand the cause of Alzheimer’s, which will likely lead to better treatments and innovations within the field. Currently, researchers in Virginia are focusing on sticky masses of a protein called amyloid, which some believe are killing nerve cells or neurons in the brain.  At the University of Virginia, neuroscientist Harald Sontheimer says that’s been the basis for much modern research. 


“Some of the on-going clinical trials and even the one approved drug for the treatment of Alzheimer’s today, they all aim at depleting or removing these protein deposits in hopes this will rescue neurons,” said Sontheimer. “Our hypothesis would be that the amyloid build-up will gradually strangle the blood supply to the hippocampus, essentially causing an ischemic stroke in that area, and that the neurons die as a result of insufficient blood supply.”


Virginia Tech engineer Xiaoting Jia and Washington University’s Song Hu have designed a tiny scope that could be implanted in the hippocampus, so Sontheimer can see what’s happening, thus furthering research abilities.


In Highland, Valley Program for Aging Services, or VPAS, has support groups for caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s. For more information, contact Harmony Leonard at (540) 468-2178.


We thank Virginia Public Radio for their contribution to this story.

Story By


Brit Chambers

Brit Chambers is a resident of Highland County, Virginia and a news reporter for Allegheny Mountain Radio. She loves living in a small town and relishes the outdoor adventures and community feeling that Highland has to offer. Brit has a background in journalism, marketing, and public relations and spends her free time reading good books, baking sourdough bread, and hiking with her family.

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