Bid to block Alzheimer’s

In one of the most ambitious attempts yet to thwart Alzheimer’s disease, a major study got underway Monday to see if an experimental drug can protect healthy seniors whose brains harbor silent signs that they’re at risk.

Scientists plan to eventually scan the brains of thousands of older volunteers in the U.S., Canada and Australia to find those with a sticky build-up believed to play a key role in development ofAlzheimer’s — the first time so many people without memory problems get the chance to learn the potentially troubling news.

Having lots of that gunky protein called beta-amyloid doesn’t guarantee someone will get sick. But the big question: Could intervening so early make a difference for those who do?

“We have to get them at the stage when we can save their brains,” said Dr. Reisa Sperling of Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, who is leading the huge effort to find out.

Researchers are just beginning to recruit volunteers, and on Monday, a Rhode Island man was hooked up for an IV infusion at Butler Hospital in Providence, the first treated.

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