The section featuring Dr. Feldman:
The Alzheimer’s Grind
With few breakthroughs in sight, researchers are doggedly pursuing all possible approaches to find a way to treat this disease.
By Stephanie Watson
When Dr. Eva Feldman, moved her 88-year-old mother into a Michigan memory care unit five years ago, she thought she knew everything there was to know about Alzheimer’s disease. Still, the neurologist and neurodegenerative disease expert was shocked by the number of ways in which Alzheimer’s devastates lives. Some residents sat immobile in their wheelchairs, unable to communicate or even feed themselves. Others walked and talked with ease but had no idea who they were or what they were doing there.
“It was so sad to see the loss in these once vibrant people,” recalls Feldman, who is the Russell N. DeJong professor of neurology at the University of Michigan. “This disease
robs you of your very essence. Not only your mind and your personality, but your very essence."
Her mother has since passed, but the 11 months that Feldman spent visiting her in that memory care unit reshaped her research. Renowned for her groundbreaking work on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), she now devotes half of her NeuroNetwork for Emerging Therapies lab to brain health and Alzheimer’s prevention.
One area of her research focuses on stem cells, the raw materials for heart and skin cells as well as the nerve cells (neurons) that make up the brain’s communication network,
which Alzheimer’s destroys. Feldman and her team have already shown that transplanting stem cells into the hippocampus—the brain’s learning and memory center—improves
cognition in mice bred to mimic Alzheimer’s disease. Still to be determined is whether these results can be replicated in humans.
Feldman is just one of many researchers around the world trying to fit together the pieces of the Alzheimer’s puzzle and offer hope to the estimated 6.5 million people living
with the disease—and the millions more who are at risk...