Man travels halfway across nation for UW Alzheimer's study

If a disease took away someone you loved, and you had an opportunity to change that for your loved ones and for future generations, would you? David Blotner did, and he travels halfway across the nation to do so.

"I tend to be more like my mother. I look more like her side of the family, and for me, I felt like this would be something worthwhile," said David Blotner.

You could say Blotner traveled from Maryland to honor his mother.

"My mom was, a really bright, smart, funny woman," said Blotner.

His mother, Sue, passed away last month from Alzheimer's disease. 5.2 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer's disease. In 2050, it's estimated to be three times that. Blotner started participating in the WRAP study at UW 10 years ago, when she was first diagnosed.

WRAP stands for Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer's Prevention. Since 2001, they've been studying people with a family history of Alzheimer's. Research shows, they're able to better diagnose the disease, and with new techniques, can diagnose it before any visible symptoms occur.

"If we can diagnose the disease before the symptoms begin, maybe we can prevent those symptoms from ever occurring," said Dr. Sterling Johnson, a UW Department of Medicine Professor and a lead investigator for WRAP.

He travels to his hometown of Madison every few years to perform cognitive tests for the study. As he gives answers to the nurse, he's hoping to get some too.

"Once you started down that road, as we saw with my mom, there isn't really much you can do to change the trajectory. So the earlier they can find markers that allow them to intervene, maybe they can do something. i think that's the hope," said Blotner.

Dr. Johnson says it's patients like Blotner, that keep the research going, and prevention possible.

"They're committed to the study, and they inspire us to up our level of commitment and to treat this as a matter of urgency," said Dr. Johnson.

The WRAP study is breaking ground on per-symptomatic Alzheimer's. That's where your brain may have signs of the disease but you may not have other symptoms. In the coming years, they'll develop tools for clinical trials of that stage of the disease.

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