MILWAUKEE, Wis. (NBC 26) — Women are at a significantly higher risk than men of developing Alzheimer's. Of the 6.5 million Americans living with the disease, nearly two-thirds are women, according to the Alzheimer's Association and it remains incurable.
This month, a Wisconsin Scientist was awarded a grant to help bring us closer to understanding why women are more vulnerable to the disease and possible drug therapies to protect them.
"We're getting pretty close. The results so far seem really encouraging," says Dr. Karyn Frick, Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Dr. Frick has been studying Alzheimer's for decades.
"There are thousands of people all over the world working on this. Alzheimer's is a very complex disease," she says.
Dr. Frick and a team of scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee were awarded a $300,000, three-year research grant from the Alzheimer's Association.
"Women, when they go through Menopause, the loss of estrogen puts them at risk of normal age-related memory decline as well as diseases like Alzheimer's disease," says Dr. Karyn Frick.
Her research, conducted at a UW-Milwaukee lab, hopes to develop new treatments to reduce Alzheimer's risk in women.
"We think if we can understand how estrogen affects the brain, then maybe we can develop treatments that can provide some of the benefits of estrogen without some of the side effects of current estrogen therapies like breast cancer and uterine cancer."
Mirada Schwabe is one of many Ph.D. students working towards this breakthrough in research with Dr. Frick.
"The idea that we could be working on a treatment for cognitive decline and Alzheimer's is such an amazing opportunity to work on this project," said Schwabe.
Schwabe says scientific research for Alzheimer's is slow and methodical but she's optimistic the work she's doing with Dr. Frick, will result in a treatment that will help people.
"Neuroscience and psychology are fascinating as it is but when you're working with someone who's equally as passionate about it, it makes the work so much better," Schwabe stated.
"We're just so pleased to have Dr. Fricks' innovative and promising research happening right here in Wisconsin," said Dave Grans, the Executive Director for the Alzheimer's Association, Wisconsin Chapter.
The Alzheimer's Association is the largest non-profit funder of Alzheimer's research in the world, investing more than $310 million in more than 950 projects in 48 countries.
"Dr. Frick's research is just one of those many grants that the Association is currently funding to advance the science so we can put an end to it as soon as possible," Grans adds.
"That's the hope, someday there's a chance we can prevent this entirely or there's a cure. There's never been a survivor of Alzheimer's disease so we're working towards that day so if someone does get that diagnosis we can really do something meaningful to help them and their families," concludes Dr. Frick.
I'll be the emcee of the event which opens at 8:30 a.m., the walk begins at 10:00 a.m.