VILLAGE OF EAST SYRACUSE – The local multi-therapeutic facility Velocity Clinical Research Syracuse is taking part in a national study to detect early signs of Alzheimer’s disease.
Though the East Syracuse institute’s researchers are aware of the lengthy list of thoughts crossing people’s minds when they’re projected to have one year or less to live, the company’s hope is that consideration will be given to participation in a PET scan now while the willing subject is still alive followed by the donation of their brain for scientific research after death.
With the goal being to eventually find a cure for that form of dementia, Velocity is seeking end-of-life enrollees either with or without Alzheimer’s for a clinical trial that would use a tracer to detect signs of the disease in the brain such as the buildup of tau protein deposits.
The positron emission tomography imaging would “light up” the areas in the brain that have formed tau tangles, and contrasts would be made with the brains that don’t show those early and later-stage changes brought about by Alzheimer’s disease.
“We don’t want the scan to light up the healthy brains, so we have to show that it doesn’t light up the healthy brains and it does light up the brains that have issues,” said Christy Hall, the clinical research coordinator for Velocity. “This study, if people are willing to do it, is going to help us develop the best way to find people that are at risk for developing Alzheimer’s, even before any bad things show up.”
Hall said the examination of brains during life and after one’s death could lead to the development of treatments that are successful in staving off the progression of Alzheimer’s, thus creating a “new standard of care.”
To be eligible for the new study, enrollees must be men or women 50 years of age or older with a remaining life expectancy of less than one year. Each person would also need to be able to complete the proper procedures involved, like lying down in a PET scanner, and there would need to be written informed consent to take part in the study from the subject or their legally authorized representative.
Those looking to participate will undergo a brief exam to determine their eligibility before receiving at least one PET scan. Upon a participant’s death during the course of the study, a member of the Velocity team would work with their family to ensure the highest level of respect for their brain donation.
Dr. Robert Cupelo, the principal investigator for Velocity, said his company wishes for around 200 enrollees or more for this study, about half with memory loss issues and half without, though he added that 60 brain donations is all that’s needed for sufficient gathering of data.
He also said that his facility plans to better ensure racial diversity in medical trials like this one to be more representative of the overall population.
Participants are reimbursed for travel expenses, given compensation for the time they provide the research institute, and treated to meals on the days of their visits for the study. If they pass away, their family is given a stipend toward funeral or cremation costs as well as a detailed report about their loved one’s brain tissue and what was discovered with scanning technology.
Cupelo said he acknowledges it may be a tough decision to make to agree to donate one’s brain, but he said participation in the ongoing research study will bring Velocity and other participating sites closer to “much-needed medical breakthroughs.”
He said it can also give each subject of the study a sense of lasting purpose and comfort that they will be making a positive impact on society at the end of their life.
Hall said that partaking in the study can additionally assist one’s posterity through an understanding of the signs that lead to a diagnosis, the exact genetic markers that might be inherited, and risk factors outlined in the research facility’s prepared reports.
“We do a lot of the same research that happens in these big metro centers,” Hall said. “I think it’s really nice for people to know that research studies are happening right here and you don’t have to drive three to six hours or more to access them.”
Cupelo’s job through each clinical trial is to make sure the study at hand is ethically sound and conducted correctly in accordance with international medical guidelines. This national Alzheimer’s detection study has no definite end date, but he said it will likely last about a year.
Velocity Clinical Research has conducted trials relating not only to Alzheimer’s but also focus areas like non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, diabetes, flu shots, COVID-19 boosters, and vaccines meant to prevent mononucleosis.
Last year, the company moved from a space on Kirkville Road to its larger current location in Suite B105 at 5000 Brittonfield Parkway in East Syracuse after doubling the size of its staff and tripling its amount of active clinical trials for Central New Yorkers.
Anyone interested in or unsure about participating in the local research facility’s study of Alzheimer’s is encouraged to contact the institute by calling 315-760-5905 or by sending an email to [email protected].